The Voice of Experience: Caring for caregivers

Web Lead

Having cared for our elderly parents, I feel I can impart some of the things that worked for me as a caregiver.

Your body language is very important — that and your words have to match or you give mixed messages. Personal contact, hugs, smiles, eye contact, holding out your hand first empowers the person you are caring for. Interaction gives you the time to know and understand each other.

Always remember to take time for yourself, and call a friend or family member to cover for you, when you need a break.

And most important, don’t feel guilty. This is part of life; you cannot change someone else, but you can change how you react to them.

When taking your elderly parent shopping, make time so you are not rushed, they will feel cared for and you will not get frustrated. Make it an enjoyable time for you both.

When my parents would keep repeating things over and over, I would remember that to them it was the first time said.

You can only do one thing at a time, not that chore that is coming up the next day. Worry does not solve anything.

Share with your family and friends how you are feeling; holding it in creates anger and resentment.

Like everything in life, nothing is perfect, and you have to admit that makes life interesting. Sometimes life is more interesting than other times.

Some of the most important things in this world is taking care of yourself, especially when you are a caregiver. If you get sick or burned out, you will not be able to care for yourself and the one you are caring for. Give yourself the gift of caring for yourself.

Remember not to take personally what the person you are caring for might say to you. When a senior is dependent on someone to do most tasks for them, they lose the ability to be in charge of their life and that can make them frustrated. The caregiver often receives the brunt of their frustration and the hopelessness that they feel in their life. That is one reason why we must let them do all that they can for themselves, even though we can do it faster ourselves — patience, patience and more patience.

When dealing with a family member, it is even harder to keep calm some days. A paid caregiver is expected to do as they are told to do without any questions, and can go home when their shift is over, but family is expected to know how things should be and often are chastised when doing their best and not meeting their mom or dad’s expectations and perhaps putting in long hours with them, after working a job, as well.

This is a quote from the East Kootenay Senior Caregiver’s Network facilitator:

“I would probably say over the year I would bring in six to seven speakers. I took over the facilitator position in September 2010. The group and I are getting to know each other and building a trusting relationship. They share their daily lives at this group — some are good days and some not so good.

“We have had speakers talk about wills, power of attorney, representation agreements, et cetera, and a lot of legal matters that caregivers need to be aware of. Also, we case had a case manager speak from IHA outlining her role and encouraging caregivers to utilize the community resources that are available to them.

“Caregivers are caring for family or friends with a variety of health issues so I like to have speakers give a background on these different health concerns so the group is informed on what each one is dealing with.”

Confidentiality is very important and we trust each other to keep our stories safe. This meeting is a support group, with caregivers going through or having been through the position of a caregiver with all the different emotions that that involves. We have anywhere from six to 12 attending. It is a great group everyone always brings something to the table even if it’s just by being there!

The following information comes from a handout supplied by the East Kootenay Senior Caregiver’s Network. Funded by the Interior Health Authority, it provides support for family caregivers of elderly persons who are living either at home, in the community or in a facility (assisted, supported or full care).

Monthly support groups are available in each community providing a safe, nonjudgmental place to:

•rediscover the joys of caring for a loved one;

•exchange information about what to do, where to go, whom to call;

•exchange practical ideas;

•explore coping strategies to deal with feelings of anger, frustration, guilt, isolation, helplessness and hopelessness; and

•access community resources.

Toll-free telephone service throughout the East Kootenay offers:

•emotional support, debriefing and day-to-day coping strategies;

•resource information about each community; and

•access to caregiver information from our library database.

For information about a support group in your community, call 1-877-489-0803.

The group’s goals are:

•to reduce the isolation felt by caregiver;

•to promote support groups for caregivers of elderly family members in the community and in care facilities;

•to offer education for caregivers;

•to make connections with health professional regarding caregivers’ needs; and

•to become a centralized connection between caregivers and the community.

Marleyne Krell is a volunteer at the Therapeutic Activation Program for Seniors.