Halloween’s visiting ghosts and goblins won’t be the only ones interested in tricks and treats this month. Let’s take a look at some examples for caregivers:
Locate the Will: Do you know where your loved one’s Will can be found? Is the Will current? Have final wishes been clearly stated and explained? Have an executor for the estate and guardian for any children been named? Much can change in a person’s life (including new partners, belongings, separation/divorce, adoption, death of a spouse, property acquisition, pets). Has the Will been completed when the senior was of sound mind and body?
Involve your senior: Do you do things FOR your senior or WITH your senior? The latter approach will often bring better results. Seniors can remain physically and mentally able to perform many tasks, but they can also lose mobility, strength, balance and flexibility. They will fight hard to keep their pride and dignity, so if a senior can put on his/her own shoes (even with Velcro straps),offer encouragement to do so.
Agree (within reason): My father had Alzheimer’s disease and repeated many of the same stories. I realized there would be no point in correcting him--it would simply lead to further frustration for both of us. If your loved one believes that he/she is living at a childhood home, you are a longtime friend rather than close family, or he/she is watching the ships come into harbour outside of the room window, patiently agree. Being forgotten by one’s own parent can sting greatly, but it can be easier to nod, gently change the subject, and move on.
Accept limitations: Nobody – including your loved one, caregiver, doctor, or you - is perfect. People can only do so much. Overdoing things can lead to poorly-done work or exhaustion. There were times when I visited dad in his care home when I found him fast asleep. I was disappointed to miss spending time with him, but he was obviously very tired.
Better relationships with seniors and family: Family members don’t always agree on caregiving matters. By having honest discussions and sharing the workload fairly, parents, partners and children can bond.
Increased self-confidence: Caregivers are often faced with many new responsibilities and may feel doubtful in their abilities to complete tasks. Doing what needs to be done, however, can greatly boost a caregiver’s belief in what is achievable.
Memories: One of my favourite memories of dad was following a Christmas dinner. Dad spotted my nephew’s new basketball, and, much to the surprise of all at the dining table, he began a game of “catch”. While dad could not remember our game, he remembered the fun you can have with a ball. To this day, I fondly recall this as something that we did together. Family caregivers may be overloaded with work and stress, but there will be moments to cherish.
New friends: It is likely you will meet other caregivers. Through sharing experiences, many of these acquaintances could become good friends.
Improved skills: I’ve always enjoyed writing and used this as a coping mechanism as mom and dad aged. By journaling, I better managed the responsibilities of caregiving, grew as a writer, and opened new professional doors.
Along with enhancing current skills, caregivers may gain new ones. I was invited to sit on the Board of Directors for a local caregiver’s association and learned about board governance while also becoming more comfortable with networking. Family caregivers could take a cooking class, join a group to improve public speaking, dabble in art, volunteer, and so on.
Rick Lauber is a published book author and freelance writer. Lauber has written Caregiver’s Guide for Canadians and The Successful Caregiver’s Guide (both published by Self-Counsel Press) as resources for prospective, new, and current caregivers. As Alberta Prime Times’ Caregiver Coach, Lauber shares caregiving news, thoughts, and insights on a bi-monthly basis. www.ricklauber.com.