When it’s a family caregiver’s sole responsibility to manage the care of a loved one, there will come a time when stress will get to a level where the caregiver becomes unable to perform self-care or continue to provide for their loved one. Getting others involved to help the caregiver will bring much-needed relief. Family caregivers can feel emotionally and physically drained with the constant tasks that come up, sometimes unexpectedly. Here are some examples of unexpected events:
FALLS: A loved one may be fragile enough to experience a fall that may result in some devastating outcomes, including head trauma, a broken hip or another broken bone. This would involve a trip to the emergency room and a call to the doctor to report the fall.
SKIN TEARS: Open skin is a magnet for infections, which will only serve to complicate care. Skin tears need proper attention.
URINARY TRACT INFECTIONS: UTIs are hard to recognize when caregivers are busy. A sudden change in behavior, more confusion than usual or hallucinations are among the first signs. Often, our kūpuna do not have strong immune systems that signal the presence of a UTI with a fever or other typical sign of infection.
These challenges are common when caring for an elderly loved one and family caregivers need to be prepared to manage them and also allow others to step in to help as needed. Communicating the plan to others will make these problems seem less traumatic. Consider these recommendations for involving others when providing primary care for a loved one in need.
• Allow family members/friends to manage others that may be dependent as well, such as children, grandchildren or siblings.
• Seek out healthcare agencies that can provide respite and take over the family caregiver’s tasks a few times a week for a number of hours, or even a full day.
• Ask friends to run errands, such as picking up prescriptions, food and supplies, etc.
• Keep family members informed of all situations so they know when the tasks will increase as the loved one needs more advanced care. Plans can be altered to include other family members and friends.
• Just because family lives far away does not mean they cannot contribute. Ask for funds to pay for services and supplies.
• Consider support groups, including those online, to prevent feeling isolated. You may learn some new ways to feel more at peace.
• Find something to be grateful for every day. Meditate on these before starting your caretaking day, so you have a centered heart.
As the family caregiver takes on more tasks for their loved one, a wider circle of support should be available to routinely step in to provide ongoing respite. Don’t be afraid to ask for help! It will give both the caregiver and the loved one a better quality of life.
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