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Caregiving Tips from the Pros: 8 Words of Advice

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As a family caregiver, you play a vitally important role in the life of your aging loved one—a role that can also be overwhelming, exhausting and sometimes thankless. As our gift to you this season, and as an encouragement for all of the good work you are doing, we asked professional Home Instead® CAREGiversSM to share their best advice with you. Here are eight of our favorites.

1. Take a break without feeling guilty.
Maggie, a Home Instead CAREGiver, says, “The one thing I would advise a family caregiver is to allow themselves respite time, at least a couple times each month, without feeling guilty. A refreshed caregiver is a much better provider of care when they themselves have taken a much needed break.”

2. Helping your loved one look good can help them feel good, too.
CAREGiver Theresa says, “Washing their hair, getting a trim or a haircut can vastly improve how they feel and see themselves. Update their clothes as their size changes or they lose a lot of weight. Purchasing two or three brightly colored, patterned ‘senior bibs’ or ‘painting smocks’ that can be put on and washed every day can also extend the life of their clothes.”

3. Give them the freedom to forget.
CAREGiver Lori says, “Do not assume your family member remembers even the simple parts of life they've always known. Do not assume they like what they've always liked: music, television, current events, travel, past favorite foods, visiting in large groups of people. Do not assume they remember the person in church greeting them, or the neighbor next door, or even you. Allow them the space to remember and forget at their own pace.”

4. Call or visit regularly.
CAREGiver Renee says, “In my years as a caregiver, I have found that most seniors who do not get out much usually experience loneliness. Their phone seldom rings and the television is often left on all day for company. They want to hear the sound of other voices but that doesn't take the place of visiting with other people or spending time out in public.” Renee suggests setting a specific day and time each week to call, to give your loved one something to look forward to. A simple letter or greeting card to let them know they are missed and loved can make their day and remind them that someone cares.

5. Allow them to change and accept when they do.
“Whether it’s a physical incapability or behavioral, realize that it is okay that your loved one is not the person you remember. Step back and realize the only way they can get peace is to let them be.” – Jeannie, Great Lakes Region 2012 CAREGiver of the Year

6. Never make them feel incapable, or say “no” outright.
Jeannie also advises, “Be considerate about things that may be embarrassing to them (e.g., helping them out of a wheelchair). Be as creative as you can be. If they’re confused about what is going on, ease the confusion by asking questions about their past and suggesting activities like going for a drive and pointing out all their favorite locations. Do what you can to make it feel like they weren’t denied anything.”

7. Be patient and respectful.
Mariana, Central Region 2012 CAREGiver of the Year, says: “Regardless of the reasons they need care, it is important to provide loved ones care in ways that are respectful of their dignity and independence. You need to be patient.”

8. Accept help.
“You need to take care of yourself to take care of someone else. If people offer to help, accept the help.” – Mariana

Now that you’ve heard this advice from professional CAREGivers, what advice could you share to help them? We’d love to hear your comments below!

Last revised: November 21, 2013

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Thoughts and stories from others
  1. December 2, 2018 at 9:50 am | Posted by Ron

    Was a caregiver for my Dad. Alzheimer. Luckily I had four siblings that truly pitched in. We had schedules and it worked for a while. Then their true personalities came out and it became a control game. All I wanted was for him to get better. They were not on that page. Their idea was just let him pass away. Then I was the oldest and the youngest. Wanted to be in charge of everything including the other siblings' lives. God loves a cheerful giver not an in charge giver. They chase his other loves out of his living siblings and girlfriends. Had to remove me from the Plan. Feel bad for that. They didn't want anyone else to help us. Tried to suggest to find help or a senior care help would not have part of it. I love them all with all my heart and forgive them for everything they have done that is what my dad taught me how to be. Hope they find True Giving. I know its hard giving to our Parents but remember all they have done for us raising their children. They didn't give them a owners book either. Thank you for letting me vent hope it helps someone.

    Reply

  2. November 11, 2018 at 1:44 pm | Posted by Diane Van Wie

    I am the carer of my 93 yr old mother. I have 3 brothers but was elected the one to take her, so my life as I knew it ceased when I was 62. I have Lupus/Sjogrens ( which cause me to be dry mouth, nose, eyes and everywhere.) Mom lost her memory, during surgery, to have her knee replaced. She is unable to read, having a conversation difficult, unable to form words, lost her hearing (purchased hearing aids), unable to write (arthritis to severe). So needless to say she requires my full attention.I had a beautiful large home, but we co owned it with a brother in law, who did not want Mom there and made our lives a living HELL. So we (husband and I) purchased another home suitable for my mom, and have not heard a word from that brother in law since. I have lost all my friends because of not working and also lost all my teeth. I am lonely and my husband and I can not go away because she can no longer travel,and needs constant watching (always falling). My escape is in reading books, murder mysteries, my husband still works but still has no release at home. I have checked out the care givers web sites, nothing there, I do everything they say except get away with time for ourselves.I just need to vent now and then. thanks for listening.

    Reply

  3. June 29, 2018 at 7:20 pm | Posted by Frances Young

    I wanted to give everyone some information and maybe it will be helpful for some of you. I am also caring for my elderly mom 95 full time for 3 years. I was blessed that a friend told me about this program and have had mom on it for 3 years and it is a blessing. If your loved one was a WARTIME VET or the Wife of a Wartime Vet you can check into a program called Aid And Attendance. This program is the only one I have found that will actually pay a caregiver that is family to care for their family member. It usually takes about 9-10 months for the first check to come, but it is all retro from the day you officially file. Most military organizations can help you with the paperwork and filing. Don't go with a organization that charges you there are too many places that do it for free. You will need to be patient, I even had to contact my congressman after 8 months and he got the show rolling. Good Luck it is well worth the time and trouble.

    Reply

  4. November 22, 2017 at 10:44 pm | Posted by Judy McIvor

    My husband is 96, I am 70. He was in excellent health until a heart attack this past February. As he recovered physically, his mental health is deteriorating. I understand it must be frustrating for him, but when he gets verbally mean, I feel like chucking it in. He won't let me bring anyone in to help or give me a break and I'm not comfortable leaving him alone as he's fallen a couple of times and couldn't get up without help. I don't know how much more I can take. We're alone as far as family goes and he's outlived his friends.

    Reply

    • October 17, 2018 at 10:21 am | Posted by Don

      This note resonates. Caregiver stress is overwheling and for most leads to lonliness because many peers are gone or shy away from an unhappy situation. It is very important to have some respite. Hiring a caregiver is so very important. It has given me the relief I have needed to be a better and more understanding caregiver. Anxiety is such a potent driver of stress.

      Reply

  5. October 18, 2017 at 1:07 am | Posted by Shirley

    Think the times I will always remember and hope my husband liked best was 1 when we went for our rides and he was able to get out, and 2 when we would take a nap together. I would place a pillow so my head would't make his arm hurt. But I could put my arm across his chest and hold him and stroke his cheek. It was "our" time together. He usually slept and I could doze and get some much needed rest.

    Reply

    • October 19, 2017 at 11:39 am | Posted by Home Instead

      Beautiful! We're so glad to hear you had that time together with your husband, Shirley! Those are the moments to cherish forever.

      Reply

  6. September 10, 2017 at 11:43 pm | Posted by sue ann

    oh cate, it *is* hard. i was poa for my folks in their last years, the available sibling. however, they did not live with me, being either at home, in the hospital, or in assisted living. i often wondered how i would fare if we lived together. I've had single women friends in your situation as well. some key phrases from your letter jumped out at me: internal resentment, boiling point, can't keep giving, run out of juice. i so understand these phrases! your origination 'i need a respite holiday' *is* the solution. the siblings do need to pitch in, and in the event they don't, for goodness sake investigate the assisted living facilities in your area. many have temporary respite options available and i urge you strongly to take a little holiday. believe me, you will benefit from the refreshment, and yes, you *do* deserve it! xo and best wishes, a former caregiver

    Reply

  7. July 27, 2017 at 11:29 am | Posted by Cate Stevenson

    Reading these desperately tired, burnt out caregivers stories with their day to day struggles helps me realise I TOO am in a wide Club of primary caretakers for YEARS, for an elderly wheelchair bound 86 year old Mother with Parkinson's since 1995. I am the CEO of everything to do with her daily care and the house we live in. I do have some PSW help 2X a daily for an hour. Their care is all about her. Dressing her after sponge washing, gives me some morning break, but I am on call the rest of the day for meal prep and toileting, snacks and drinks, I am plum worn out. Grocery shopping is not ME time. My internal resentment from my three capable younger siblings are to the boiling point, they swan off with their BUSY lives and grandkids, and I am in isolation with my frail aging Mother who is aware of my complaints and says Sorry all the time. It's only going to get worse she says, and that attitude is not helpful or consoling. I understand now why elder abuse happens when the caregiver can't keep giving and giving their time and attention when the batteries have run out of juice. I need a respite holiday from this endless routine. Thanks for your input folks. Cate

    Reply

  8. July 27, 2017 at 11:28 am | Posted by Cate Stevenson

    Reading these desperately tired, burnt out caregivers stories with their day to day struggles helps me realise I TOO am in a wide Club of primary caretakers for YEARS, for an elderly wheelchair bound 86 year old Mother with Parkinson's since 1995. I am the CEO of everything to do with her daily care and the house we live in. I do have some PSW help 2X a daily for an hour. Their care is all about her. Dressing her after sponge washing, gives me some morning break, but I am on call the rest of the day for meal prep and toileting, snacks and drinks, I am plum worn out. Grocery shopping is not ME time. My internal resentment from my three capable younger siblings are to the boiling point, they swan off with their BUSY lives and grandkids, and I am in isolation with my frail aging Mother who is aware of my complaints and says Sorry all the time. It's only going to get worse she says, and that attitude is not helpful or consoling. I understand now why elder abuse happens when the caregiver can't keep giving and giving their time and attention when the batteries have run out of juice. I need a respite holiday from this endless routine. Thanks for your input. Cate

    Reply

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