About Caregiving & Helping Older People
In the simplest of terms caregiving is the act of helping to meet the needs of another being. If you are about to become the primary caretaker of another individual you can expect to experience a range of emotions. It might sound like a simple task, but caregiving is often as difficult mentally as it is physically.
The best caregivers to the elderly are compassionate, patient, flexible, reliable, trustworthy and honest. A senior citizen caregiver understands that his or her role extends beyond the basic needs of food, water and shelter and considers the emotional, religious, educational and family needs of the person they are caring for..
- Create a Support Team
Surround yourself with people that you can turn to when needed. These people can include friends, family members, your local church or even a peer group. When you are overwhelmed and need a hand, turn to your support group. Perhaps most importantly, your support team can be a listening ear when you need advice or insight during a particularly difficult week.
Part of being a caregiver is managing a team. Put some thought into the most productive way to get things done and don’t be afraid to ask others for help.
- Never Stop Researching
Your loved one’s illness may or may not be treatable. Regardless, you should never stop reading about solutions, tactics, trials and medications that might be helpful for your family. Research never stops. Clinics and labs are always testing new theories and finding new solutions.
- Tend to Your Emotional Needs
Physical needs require an action. You need to pick medication up from the pharmacy, cook dinner so everyone can eat, bathe, clean the kitchen, etc. It is easy to forget, or neglect, your emotional needs. As a primary caretaker you will quickly find that your personal time dwindles. It becomes harder and harder to find moments to yourself.
Be aware of your mind and spirit and take steps to stay connected with yourself. Perhaps this means taking a luxurious bath instead of a quick shower, reading before bed on the porch, or waking up five minutes earlier for coffee alone in the kitchen before your day officially begins.
- Follow a Routine
Similar with children, the elderly respond well to a schedule. Nutrition and hygiene needs can be organized into a daily routine so that the person can become familiar with what to expect next. Adhering to a normal schedule can increase cooperation, sleeping habits, and reduce the number of decisions you or your loved ones need to make (often eliminating arguments).
Embrace the Small Victories
At times it may feel like an uphill battle. When caring for an aging person things will go wrong, and the recovery period can be the most difficult part. Enjoy your small victories and the little moments that remind you why you do what you do.
The information above is intended to serve as a guide as you become acquainted with your new responsibilities as a caretaker. Nothing in this article is intended to constitute medical advice.
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