It may have been suspected, or perhaps broadsided you out of the blue. Mom has just received the official diagnosis for a progressive disease that’s going to make independent life difficult. While there are lots of uncertainties, one thing is for sure: she is adamant about remaining at home – meaning you’ll have some decisions to make about how to provide for the care she’ll need.
Welcome to your new role as family caregiver! If you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed with what to expect next, these tips can help.
- Learn as much as you can about the disease. The senior’s doctor can provide you with resources and educational materials to help you know what to expect and to gain confidence in your caregiving role.
- Get organized. Create a folder in which to store important paperwork: test results, prescription details, contact information for physicians’ offices and the pharmacy, and any other pertinent medical information. Start a journal to help track any changes in condition or concerns that arise, as well as the details surrounding those changes.
- Set aside past hurts. A new diagnosis can cause old family dynamics to resurface. If unresolved issues are interfering with your ability to provide the best care, seek the support of a professional counselor to work through them.
- Establish boundaries together. Talk with the senior about how much and what kind of help would be beneficial. It’s natural to want to step in and take over, but it’s important for the senior to maintain as much independence and control as possible.
- Take care of yourself, too. Your own health and wellbeing are equally important. And, the level of care you provide can be compromised if your own needs are not being met. Designate and prioritize time each day for self-care by seeking out and accepting help from others.
It's important to be aware of the risk for caregiver burnout and depression, and to take steps immediately if you begin to experience red flags such as:
- Increased anxiety, agitation, and irritability
- Withdrawing from social interactions
- Lack of interest in once-enjoyed pastimes
- Loss of appetite
- Problems with falling or staying asleep
- Difficulty with focus and concentration
Finding a trusted care partner will give you time to see the doctor for a checkup to rule out any other possible health concerns, to talk with a counselor to work through the many emotions involved with being a family caregiver, and to relax and recharge.
The Windsor, Ontario caregivers at Amy’s Helping Hands are here with additional resources for family caregivers, as well as skilled, dependable respite care services that allow for a healthy life balance. Contact us onine or call us at 519-915-4370 for a free in-home consultation to learn more.