For the first time, I have recently started assisting my two siblings with the care of both parents having simultaneous medical issues. While we hope for a full recovery, my siblings and I realize this will not be the last time that our own routines and agendas will be thrown aside without warning to take care of the ones who took care of us. It’s a challenge, but it’s what we do.
The number of adults helping a parent personally or financially has tripled in the past 15 years, according to a recent study by MetLife, the National Alliance for Caregivers (NAC) and New York Medical College. Most caregivers (66%) are women in their late 40s caring for a mother or other female relative. It’s likely that you will find yourself in this situation if you haven’t already.
As an Occupational Therapist, I thought I would have this caregiver phase of life covered – no problem. But, if you add the stresses of emotions, exhaustion, inability to work, family relationship dynamics and hundred other factors together, I have quickly found that I am not their therapist. I am their daughter, and I need some help too. Here is a list of seven things that I have found helpful during this journey.
- Local resources such as Cameron Home Care, CareLink, a family friend who is a chef, Star Transportation, finding equipment (i.e. wheelchairs, etc.) from our support groups and distant family that is willing to help with the groceries have been life savers for us. I would encourage you to find and utilize similar resources in your community.
- The invention of the internet has been a game changer on so many fronts. We now have an endless amount of resources and articles at our finger tips to educate us on an endless amount of topics. I’ve listed a few of my favorite resources in the tips below that have helped keep us organized. Try heading online and doing a simple search for topics that you are struggling to find information on. You’d be surprised at what you can find online.
- Caregiver’s Library is a handy website full of checklists, listings of organizations that provide information, and a host of ideas that you might not think of when you are on the edge of being overwhelmed.
- Using a Home Modification Checklist will help you improve the safety of your loved one’s environment, which helps to prevent further medical injury from unaddressed home safety risks. Take care of the major risks first and then slowly work in the less risky areas of change with subsequent visits. Coming into someone else’s home and making drastic changes all at once may not be well-accepted and could cause unnecessary family tension. Tread lightly but do tread.
- Use a Medication Log to keep the ever-changing and ever-growing list of medications straight. A pill box with multiple time slots per day is a mandatory starting point. We are having a least two healthy people double-check the box for dosage, times of day and days of the week. I was amazed at how many pills required splitting because they aren’t available in the recommended dosage. Ask a pharmacist for advice and tricks to make sure you are giving your parent the correct dosage. Get rid of medication that is no longer active or the correct dosage. Teach, reteach, and double check if someone else takes over the medication responsibilities.
- If diet changes or assistance with grocery shopping are on the new care giving program, a Low Sodium Shopping List or Heart Healthy Shopping List can be useful. Overwhelming amounts of information are given to patients and families, and having diet recommendations in writing will take one more thing off your overfilled memory plate. These lists can be used to send a distant relative or neighbor who offers help to the grocery while you tend to things on the homefront.
- Ask the family physician for driving restrictions or recommendations. If there are none, but you still have concerns, a Driving Assessment Checklist is a good starting point. Ask a therapist to weigh in on the physical and mental capabilities involved in operating a vehicle and how your loved one is performing on these processes. Our family hasn’t “gone there yet” with the safe driving discussion, but it’s in the near future and this particular checklist is on my desk to help guide the way down that bumpy road.
This blog post was contributed by Joell Stuckey. Joell is the Director of Rehabilitation Services at Cameron Memorial Hospital in Angola, IN. She is married and has three daughters.