Relationships aren’t always easy. There are so many issues that can arise daily that challenge the status quo. One issue I see arise with frequency is the strain that goes hand in hand with caring for a loved one.
Anyone who has had to take on the responsibility of caring for someone can tell you that it comes with its set of challenges. There is no planning for an accidental injury or sudden change in health. When a loved one suddenly becomes injured or ill, fear, indecisiveness and uncertainty are all natural responses. Things can get chaotic quickly. However, calm among the chaos can happen.
Ever watch an emergency responder take control of an emergency situation? Or ever watch the seamless flow of an emergency room? In such environments, these professionals work in accelerated, hectic and life-threatening situations with calm amid the chaos. They do this because crisis situations are commonplace and extensive training has taught them how to anticipate, plan, multitask and respond.
It’s important to understand how caring for a loved one can and will affect your life, your relationships and those around you. Often, family members who find themselves in situations where they are called upon to become a caregiver are at increased risk for depression, anxiety and health problems — sometimes even substance abuse. The strain also can take a serious toll on one’s relationships with their spouse, other family members, and friends.
Caregiving and responding to the needs of a loved one requires the development of a long-term plan. While first responders can adeptly manage an emergency situation, their triage is short — maybe minutes to hours. Conversely, caregiving can last weeks, months and years.
Asking yourself these questions may help in developing an initial caregiving plan:
• Will your need to assist be time-limited or indefinite?
• What level of care will be needed? Will you need to provide general assistance like errands, marketing, meals or medication reminders? Or will you need to help with bathing, hygiene and delivery of medication(s)?
• What are the long-term desires of the person you are caring for? Do they want to live independently at home? Are they receptive to an independent living facility or skilled facility?
• Will you have time to manage the care needs by yourself, or will you need to develop a team?
Early on, it’s important to understand what your current role may be and what amount of time you have available. The role of caregiving is guaranteed to change so make sure you reevaluate your situation often. Without notice, your time assisting a loved one can become consuming.
Multitasking and asking for assistance from others is integral to caregiving. There are only so many hours in a day to spend time with friends, children, a boyfriend/girlfriend or spouse. When your time caregiving infringes on your personal responsibilities, something is bound to fail.
Here are some suggestions for multitasking:
• Take care of yourself first. If you burn the candle at both ends, you will fail physically, mentally and emotionally.
• Whenever possible, touch it once. When a task is presented, decide right away how you want to handle it. This does not mean it has to be accomplished right away. Rather, consider if the task is a one-time event or a recurring event. If it’s a one-timer (e.g., medical appointment or errand), consider addressing it and being done with it. If it’s recurring, consider if you have time to address it yourself or if you need help.
• Make lists. Do not use multiple pieces of paper and post them all over. Use a white board to keep everything in one area. This also is a huge help when others need to step in to help.
• Arrange for backup care. Inevitably, life’s mishaps will occur and you will need someone to help.
Managing your time, adjusting expectations, and asking for help are quite possibly the key elements to being a successful caregiver. Be realistic about what you can actually get done within the time you have allocated and be aware when other personal responsibilities suffer. When you get caught up in a caregiving role, it’s easy to let other things slide.
Judson Haims is the owner of Visiting Angels Home Care in Aspen, Basalt, and Carbondale. He is an advocate for our elderly and is available to answer questions. His contact information is http://www.visitingangels.com/comtn or 970-328-5526.