by Paul Gach, Director/Owner, Visiting Angels – Charlotte
When we start thinking about getting care for our loved ones whether their need is due to the aging process or a medical condition we often think about how they will benefit from having someone providing them assistance. Families are happy to help take care of their loved ones; however, it can be very difficult, especially considering that most family members have their own careers and families to take care of as well.
It is recommended that there is some type of additional care to give respite to family caregivers. There are a multitude of basic needs, including household maintenance and chores to be tended to when aiding in family care.
Fundamentals such as bathing and grooming, preparing meals, household chores, and paying bills are some examples of what needs to be done for someone. Perhaps some of these can be done by family members, but many times it is too much to handle, and additional help is needed. Sometimes it places family members in uncomfortable situations especially when bathing and dressing assistance is needed and the family member is of the opposite gender.
Finding time to help our loved ones often means swinging by their homes in the evenings after work or children’s events or checking in on the weekends. As this begins to happen we feel the additional pressure to juggle all these priorities in our lives. Then in addition to chores and keeping up the household, children’s activities and work, who is responsible for getting our family member to doctor’s appointments or ensure they take their medication properly? It doesn’t matter whether you are ten minutes away or two hours away it needs to be done.
It is stressful being a caregiver for an elderly parent or loved one, no matter how much you may love them. There is a significant amount of disruption to your life and schedule, as well as the worry and sorrow of watching someone you love become more helpless. There are also feelings involved with elderly care including frustration, guilt, resentment, and hopelessness. Feeling unappreciated for all of the work you do also contributes to anxiety.
According to the Mayo Clinic, stress can affect your body, your thoughts and feelings, and your behavior. Being able to recognize common stress symptoms can give you a jump on managing them. Stress that’s left unchecked can contribute to health problems, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity and diabetes.
Common Effects of Stress:
On your body: headache, muscle tension or pain, chest pain, fatigue, change in sex drive, stomach upset, sleep problems
On your mood: anxiety, restlessness, lack of motivation or focus, irritability, sadness or depression
On your behavior: overeating or under eating, angry outbursts, drug or alcohol abuse, tobacco use, social withdrawal
There are some ways to combat the stress of elderly and family care including getting help and support from a Home Care agency, maintaining your health, and staying organized about the patient’s health and care. Including home care as part of one’s family care giving support can free up needed personal time.
Personal time is needed for you to take care of yourself because if you are not healthy it will be even more difficult to assist your loved one. Personal time is needed to decompress from today’s active lifestyle and recharge your batteries for the next day. I understand the pressures; one of my visits to my mother’s home wasn’t just spending quality time learning that my grandfather drove a horse and buggy 30 minutes one way just to date my grandmother, talking about grandchildren, how she enjoys Silver Sneakers and what she has planned for the next week. I spent hours on a ladder cleaning rain gutters, trimming bushes and other household chores. Then it was off to a restaurant, (before 5 PM of course), where we were able to enjoy each other’s company and numerous laughs.
Home Care primarily assists the person in need to stay at home, maintain their independence and stay active in their social circles. Secondary benefits are also enjoyed by family caregivers and their families who can be relieved of some of the responsibilities and benefit from a more balance and less stressful lifestyle.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful to go over to your parent’s house and as you walk in say, “Hi Mom and Dad, you guys look great, can I sit down and visit for a while?”