Caring for an elderly loved one is not without its stressors. The responsibility is a heavy load to bear physically, mentally and emotionally. However, there are a number of measures that can be put in place to protect the caregiver.
Here, at Gold Age Australia, we know the signs to look out for. Although we are professionals who are trained in this work, we too need to be ever vigilant. That is why we are happy to pass on some tips we hope will be helpful to you.
The physical stress associated with caring for an elderly loved one takes many forms. The most obvious, is that of adding an extra load to your already busy day. After all there are only so many hours in the day. And if you are married with children that is already a pretty full day. However, routine and organisation will be your best friends in the situation. Furthermore this is a win-win situation because elderly people love the peace of routine.
If you can organise set mealtimes, that will already shape the day. Sharing the tasks involved in caring for your elderly loved one with other family members, if available, is also a big help. Moreover, planning your elderly loved one’s menus, say on a revolving two week schedule, will help with shopping and meal preparation. Generally speaking, they should be able to eat the same food the family eats. The only difference being softer meats and vegetables and more gravy if they have any chewing or swallowing problems.
Regular bedtimes for both you and your elderly loved one is also very helpful. That is because getting enough sleep is a big step towards reducing fatigue. A nap after lunch is also very beneficial. It will just take the edge off coping with the afternoon and the evening tasks.
Correct bending and lifting procedures are essential to prevent backache and injury. So do not take this step for granted, particularly in the bathing and dressing routine. Firstly, make the adjustments you can afford to your bathroom, such as grab rails, non-slip bathmats, hand held showers etc. Loose fitting and easy to put on and wear garments will also help greatly. For instance, garments with elastic instead of buttons and zips at the waist. If your elderly loved one has mobility problems, you might consider investing in a recliner that tilts forward.
Mental stress is more often associated with things such as finances and worrying. Keep tidy, daily accounts of income and expenses. Do weekly, fortnightly or monthly reconciliations. This will remove unnecessary anxiety because the financial picture will be clear. Ask the family to be on-board with the changes instead of arguing. Remind them that they will be elderly one day too. Also remind the children that grandparents are a gift with a shelf-life. They will not be around forever and therefore they should be appreciated for their contribution.
This will be an opportunity for you to teach them life lessons about gratitude and repaying their elders for past care. Encourage everyone in the family to do their bit and carry their fair share of the burdens.
Emotional stress in caring for an elderly loved one has more basis in psychology. For example, try to disconnect between the daily coping mechanisms and fear of the future. Don’t confuse fatigue which is physical and wanting to cry. That’s because feeling teary might mean fear of losing a dearly loved family member. It more often has to do with how you are feeling inside rather than a problem.
The best solution for emotional stress is to talk with someone about it. You know what they say about “a burden shared is a burden halved”. Well, they are right about that, whoever “they” are! A nice cup of hot tea and maybe a slice of your favourite cake should help. Particularly if you are caring for some with Alzheimers or Dementia, emotional stress will come into play. So, watch for the signs. Furthermore, do not forget to differentiate between the disease and the patient.
If you need help, ask for help. Respite care, professional carers, visiting home nurses can all provide a rest for you. Remember to give yourself a pat on the back every now and then. Also, remember to take a holiday at least once a year if possible. That is because if you remain at home you will always find work that needs to be done.
So, for now, until our next blog, dear reader, from our extended family to yours, au revoir. Don’t forget to check our blog site regularly as we seek to support you in your admirable task. Remember that you are not alone. We care about you and your family and we are always here to help if we can.
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