Senior Citizen's Guide digital books
Senior Citizen's Guide

The Art of Caregiving

You are reading this essay because, either you are suffering from insomnia, or perhaps had some time to kill….or just maybe, you are a caregiver seeking recommendations and advice from someone who has been where you are today!

When approached to write a series of articles on care-giving, aging loved ones and home renovation-related topics, I didn't know where to begin.  Do I begin with a life event that precipitates a life change, do I begin with an aging loved one….or with the caregiver.  As the primary caregiver for my family, I am compelled to begin with the function and role of the primary caregiver.  My personal experience and hence, perspective is in terms of providing care and support for my aging parents.  Many of the approaches and techniques are applicable for people with disabilities of any age.

Caregivers come in all shapes, sizes, ages, talent and background level.   Some are volunteers, some are family members…others are professional with designations such as a Certified Nursing Assistant.  My writings and presentations concern the role of caregiving and not specific positions or titles.

The role of the caregiver, whether professional or personal, is a critical and extremely valuable one.  Unfortunately, the caregiving profession isn't as developed in terms of compensation, training and recruitment to reflect the importance of the job.  As a result, securing a qualified and compassionate caregiver can be a daunting challenge.  Matching the qualifications, talents and availability with the needs of your loved one becomes time-consuming and tedious.

Do It Yourself?

Providing personal care yourself to a loved one becomes very time-consuming, stressful and requires much thought and preparation; some of which will be included in a future essay.  I heard recently, "If you are planning to care for a loved one yourself, prepare yourself to give up your life for them".  Profound words that we will address in a future essay.  The time requirements can be daunting and unrealistic for many of us.

The actual and specific duties of a professional caregiver or Aide are regulated by state and are not included in our essay today.  The bottom line--- are the needs of your loved one(s) being met adequately by family members, friends and/or professional Aides.

Caregiving can be rewarding, either part-time or full-time.  Family members and friends learn how to provide quality care over time.

Time to smell the coffee—(the realities of the job)

The Care and Feeding of the Caregiver

Being a caregiver is easier when you live close to your parents.  It becomes very challenging when distance is a problem.  Part of this preparation for becoming a caregiver is to adequately evaluate the practical elements of the supportive role.

Realistic expectations

There are several key components of the care-giving role that I am compelled to share at this time.  After three years as the primary supporter of my folks, I am familiar with many aspects of the role.  Let's begin with some basic assumptions:

Care for the caregiver

There may be times when you, as the caregiver, cannot cope alone with the ordeal, challenges and responsibilities of supporting a loved one with disabilities regardless of age.  It is then that you need to know the symptoms of potential problems and to act before it is too late, my friend.  Here are a few symptoms:

When the oxygen runs low…take a breather!

When you're feeling pressured and stressed, start by taking ten deep breaths!  Restore some good air you're your lungs!  Remind yourself that on the airlines when the oxygen runs low or the pressure in the cabin becomes insufficient, the masks descend from the ceiling of the aircraft.  The instructions are to cover YOUR own mouth before assisting your traveling dependent (child or other)!!  Although common sense, it is important to remember. Everyone has difficult days, no matter how patient you are!

Knowing how to navigate the potholes and speedbumps in life is an essential skill for survival today!

"Feeding" of the caregiver—

Compensation, nutrition, return-on-investment, intrinsic pay-back and other forms of "feeding" are important considerations when entering or assuming the role of caregiver. If you have the opportunity, carefully evaluate your own expectations, limitations and needs prior to electing to perform serious care giving duties. In reality, family members are thrust into the role without preparation, training or careful assessment of needs, etc. We must learn "on the fly" and do what we can along the way.

Proper nutrition, rest, exercise and other human needs are important but too often get deferred or put aside as a "non-priority". I find myself casting away my own needs, business, personal desires and lifestyle to attend to my aging loved ones in their /time of crisis. Their "time of crisis" has lasted for about eighteen months and I am feeling as if I am "running on empty". A car can only run so far without gas…. likewise, we humans can only exist so long without proper support, sustenance, care and nutrition. Know when the time for action and change is at hand!

Compensation, nutrition, return-on-investment, intrinsic pay-back and other forms of "feeding" are important considerations when entering or assuming the role of caregiver.  If you have the opportunity, carefully evaluate your own expectations, limitations and needs prior to electing to perform serious care giving duties.   In reality, family members are thrust into the role without preparation, training or careful assessment of needs, etc.

Proper nutrition, rest and other human needs are important but too often get deferred or put aside as a "non-priority".  I find myself casting away my own needs, desires and lifestyle to attend to my aging loved ones in their time of crisis.  This "time of crisis" has lasted for about eighteen months and I am feeling as if I am "running on empty".  A car can only run so far without gas….likewise, we humans can only exist so long without proper support, sustenance, care and nutrition.

Tips for your own wellness--

Here are two sources for support and information:

The National Family Caregivers Association
Toll free: 1-800-896-3650
Phone: 301-942-6430
info@thefamilycaregiver.org

Caring Connections
Toll free: 1-800-658-8898
caringinfo@nhpco.org
www.caringinfo.org

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