When you have a senior loved one who needs an increased amount of care, you may find yourself wondering how it will change both your life and theirs over the coming years. Fortunately, you’re not alone! As a caregiver, it’s important to care for yourself as well as for your loved one. Follow these six key tips to improve the quality of care.
Identify Early Warning Signs of Stress
As a caregiver, you may notice stress building quickly in your own life, especially if you also have other responsibilities that you need to take care of. Make sure you know the warning signs of stress, including fatigue, difficulty sleeping, regular headaches and dry mouth. By identifying these potential symptoms before they become a more serious problem, you can take action to reduce your overall stress levels and keep yourself from burning out.
Take Time for Yourself
Often, family caregivers feel as though they are the sole source of support and care for an aging loved one. Unfortunately, this can quickly lead to burnout. Instead, make sure that you take time out for yourself. Spend a little time each day doing something you enjoy, and make regular appointments to spend time with friends. You have other family members who would likely be willing to sit with your loved one for a little while if needed. If that’s not an option, consider asking some of their friends to come for a visit. You can–and should–take time for you, even when your caregiving responsibilities seem overwhelming.
Track Your Own Diet and Exercise
As a caregiver, you may find yourself carefully tracking your loved one’s diet and exercise. Are you doing the same for yourself? Eating healthy and staying active can help you maintain the energy that you need to be a good caregiver, not to mention reducing your stress levels and making it easier for you to take care of those important tasks on your list. Make keeping yourself healthy a priority. You can’t care for someone else when you’re constantly sick or struggling due to a poor diet.
Invest in a Medical Alert System
No matter how devoted you are, you simply cannot remain with your loved one 24/7. You have other responsibilities and concerns that you need to deal with, and sometimes, you may need to leave them alone for a little while. Investing in a medical alert system can provide incredible peace of mind, whether you simply need to sleep at night or you need to make a quick run to the store without your loved one’s company. With the quick press of a button, your loved one can be placed in immediate contact with help. Medical Alert can also notify you and other emergency contacts that there’s a problem, allowing you to get back to your loved one as soon as possible.
Ask for Help When You Need It
Providing care for a loved one is not a one-person job. You may need to ask for help from other family members. Let your friends know what you need. If necessary, use professional caregiving services or technology to give yourself a much-needed break. Remember, you do not bear the sole responsibility for caring for your loved one. Instead, take advantage of your community. Maintain a list of what you need most so that if someone asks, you can easily let them know. You may be surprised by just how much people want to help!
Keep a Pulse on if Your Loved One’s Needs are Increasing
Care needs often increase over time creating more reliance on the caregiver. ADLs (Activities of Daily Living) are basic tasks a person needs to be able to do on their own to live independently. The Katz Index of Independence in Activities of Daily Living is an effective tool used to assess overall health and functional status of older adults. Basic ADLs include six essential skills: Bathing and Showering, Continence, Dressing, Mobility, Feeding and Toileting. ADLs can also help caregivers and health care professionals understand the level of care needed. When care needs increase families often start evaluating additional options for long term care including senior living. Medical Alert has teamed up with A Place for Mom who is the leading senior living referral service in the United States. A Place for Mom’s expert advisors help caregivers and their families find the right senior living options for their aging loved ones through personalized referrals, tour scheduling and move-in support. Their services come at no cost to families as A Place for Mom is paid for by its network of 17,000+ participating communities and home care providers.
As you adapt to being a caregiver for a senior loved one, one of the most important elements is taking care of yourself. With these key steps, you can provide better care for your loved one while ensuring that you’re taken care of, too.