By Debra Perry
More and more family members are finding themselves providing caregiving support to a spouse, parent, child, other family member, or even a close friend. These caregivers are performing tasks for the loved one for a variety of reasons, for example, to keep the loved one in a familiar, safe home environment or to keep a watchful eye on them.
Some loved ones are capable of caring for themselves. They have moved in with a caregiver to avoid living alone, for financial reasons, or to help the caregiver family with caring for other family members. Some individuals move to southern Arizona after losing their spouse and have family members already living in the area. When they make that move, they often leave behind a support group of friends, former coworkers, church groups, social groups, and other family members. The caregivers often are working and are unable to provide opportunities for socialization.
Isolation can lead to physical and emotional health issues. Moving to a new area, the loved one has to establish a new support group. If they do not drive, they are limited in socializing, attending church, meeting, and making new friends. This is especially true in rural areas.
The American Legion Post 109 has “Fellowship Day” on Wednesday for all community members. They also have bingo on Thursday evenings, again for all community members. By talking to neighbors and friends, there may be others who have similar interests such as playing cards, dominoes, or starting a book club. Sometimes it takes having a conversation with the right person to find out what may be available.
When these loved ones move in with a caregiver, they become a part of that family. They should participate in household chores, care for their personal needs, be included in family activities and game nights. It is healthy to have a purpose, to be able to help.
As the loved one ages, they may need more help from the caregiver. They may need a second or third set of ears to attend doctor visits with them. Perhaps they need monitoring of their medications and supplements. They may need assistance with cooking, bathing, and dressing. There are services available for many of these tasks. Home delivery of meals and groceries may be needed.
Homes are being adapted with private apartments for another generation of loved ones. Handicap tools such as wider doorways, grab bars, raised toilets, walk-in showers, ramps, and motion detection lighting can be added to the home. Night lights are utilized for those who move around in the dark. Windows and doors can be fitted with alarms. A “File of Life” (provides medical information of allergies, medications and more to emergency medical providers), lockbox, next of kin contact sheet, and emergency call button are all helpful for emergencies and emergency personnel who may be summoned to the home. Groceries and meals can be delivered to the home.
Caregiving can be complex and difficult to manage. In and of itself, caregiving can be a full-time job. There are emotional and physical demands that may result in stress and health issues. This is an added responsibility to someone who may already have a full and busy life.
The health and well-being of the caregiver is the most important aspect of the relationship between the caregiver and the loved one. The caregiver needs to have time alone to relax. They need to set aside some time to do the things they enjoy. A healthy caregiver is key to a healthy home environment. If the caregiver is unable to perform the caregiving duties, who will be there to fulfill these duties for the loved one. It is critical to have a backup plan.
There may be a time when it is determined the loved one can no longer be cared for by the caregiver at home. There are some options to consider as to what is the right decision. It may be independent living in an over-55 apartment community, assisted living, group home, or nursing home. Once you determine which environment best suits the needs of your loved one, select two or three and call to make an appointment. Take your loved one on this visit as this will be their home where they need to feel safe and secure. The facility will give you a tour, have you talk to residents, maybe even serve you lunch with the residents. This is the best way to assess if this is the right place for your loved one.
There are resources available to help the caregiver and the caregiver family. If you are interested in any of the resources mentioned or have questions, concerns, or ideas, contact Ellie Abraham at email@example.com or 520-395-9327.
Ellie is a board member of the SRFCA and coordinator for Corona Cares.