Caring for the caregiver
Caregiving can be a rewarding, but challenging job for family members with a terminally ill loved one. Through programs like hospice and palliative care, care at home is becoming more common for elderly adults and/or adults with a chronic and terminal conditions. With care for these adults comes the need for support and self-care for caregivers.
Chundra Williams, a licensed social worker at VNA, says that caregiving can be emotionally draining for children or younger family members trying to juggle a family, work and social life. “Caring for yourself is key to being able to give helpful care for a loved one,” says Williams. She suggests asking for help from other family members and friends if caregivers need additional help and emotional support. She also recommends staying in constant communication with a social worker to start the conversation about how to stay healthy while helping an older family member.
Those living with the person they’re caring for and those socially isolated are most likely to feel stress as a caregiver, according to the Mayo Clinic. “Stress often leads to caregiver mistakes, such as caregivers not utilizing what is right in front of them by engaging other family members,” said Williams. It is also a mistake not to explore Medicaid eligibility to provide additional support. Lastly, Williams recommends that caregivers should also reach out to the Department of Aging for information and resources for themselves and their loved one.
“If caregivers can be patient and utilize the people and resources around them, they will have a better experience,” says Williams. In fact, Williams recently worked with a stressed caregiver, caring for a family member. In their work together, the caregiver wrote a letter to a sibling asking for help, and that sibling responded favorably; so much so that she was able to have time away for herself and subsequently set up respite care for a subsequent vacation. “During her time away, the caregiver was rejuvenated and she was a better caregiver because of it.”
Williams encourages caregivers to be open minded about trying something different if they become overwhelmed or frustrated with providing for an elderly loved one. It’s the caregivers that remain open minded through their experience that give and receive the most in the end.