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Caregiving Tips from the Pros: 8 Words of Advice

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November 21, 2013

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!

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Thoughts and stories from others
  1. 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

  2. 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

  3. 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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