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The Care and Feeding of a Home Care Provider
How did you become a care giver?
Well like so many tasks that we tackle in life we put on our big person pants and get on with it. There are enormous amounts of joy and laughter involved in being a family care giver as well as being connected to your aging loved one like no one else in the family.
There are special times, shared stories and an opportunity to extract family history that will be passed on to future generations. But there are times of grief, self pity, frustration, resentment and even anger which can lead to guilt that also have to be considered. Taking care of family, whether they are nine or ninety, is what we do. Please make note of the helpful hints I will give you at the end of the article to help you survive in your new role.
Family care givers usually acquire that title through a set of circumstances, events and the every popular family dynamics. The circumstances could be that you are the only child living close to mom, the event could be that she felland the family dynamics could be that your brother just has “too much going on in his life” right now to even think about moving back to help. But we all have choices in life and your decision could be that you have chosen to take care of mom. Not out of guilt but out of desire. Once you have made that choice then that is where the excitement begins. When someone attacks a family predicament with passion and creativity then the outcome will be better for all concerned.
When you think of someone in need of a home care provider most likely you think of the elderly. In fact there are over fifty million Americans who have difficulty in performing the activities of daily living due to age, illness or a physical disability. And with over ten million of those folks age is not an issue, it is illness or a physical disability. For everyone receiving care I would bet that there are at least two others providing it.
We are living longer. Someone born in 1945 could expect to live until they were 66. Someone born in 2015 will have a life expectancy of 79 years. We are living longer but sometimes it’s not all that great. As director of a home care agency I have to opportunity to sit and chat with many of our senior clients. We provide home care for one of our clients in Phoenix who will be 90 in a couple of months. She has medical issues, vision and hearing issues but the one thing she complains about the most is fatigue. During one chat she scrunched up her face in anger and said: “Why can’t they find out what is wrong? With all the doctors I am seeing why can’t they get it right?” She is currently taking sixteen different medications.
Care giving is a job. It’s might not be a job that you applied but now that you have it you are looking for some guidance. If you have children then that was a conscious decision you made to bring children into the world and that you would be their care giver. Now men, don’t get mad at me but statistically speaking family care givers are female. In fact over 65% of family care givers are female. If both your parents are living then the family caregiver is the usually the spouse. In over 70% of elderly men it is the spouse who provides care but that drops to 33% if the wife needs the care.
Think of the jobs you do when you are a mom, that is besides your paying job out of the home. Now these are the additional jobs you take on as a family care giver.
- Accountant and money manager. At the very least you will be making sure the bills are paid so the heat doesn’t get shut off in the winter. But most likely you will be paying bills, transferring funds from savings to checking and making sure things don’t go into default.
- Medical adviser. Doing internet searches to make sure that the new supplement she is taking isn’t conflicting with the blood pressure medication.
- House keeper. Getting the crud off the stove because while mom was an excellent house keeper back in the day, she just can’t see the splatters of spaghetti sauce that has crusted over.
- Personal hygiene assistant. At the very least doing standby duty while she showers or bathes.
- Cook. While she can still operate the microwave a nice homemade casserole is always a treat.
- Driver. Many, many doctors appointments, lab tests and then there is grocery shopping, pharmacies, etc.
These are just some of your new duties that you will take on along with responsibilities to your family and your job. Have you heard of the “Sandwich Generation” well you’re it. Sandwiched between your children and your parents.
But don’t fret there are other family members to help right? In a perfect world all will be there to help. We had a client who had terminal cancer with really only a short time left. We provided overnight home care for him in Peoria, AZ; his wife had passed on several years earlier and he now lived alone. He had three children who were now in their sixties who lived not to far away. Hospice of the Valley visited often providing palliative care. His children would rotate during the day to provide care and we provided care givers for the overnight hours until one of the children arrived the next morning. He was covered with loving care 24/7 and passed in his sleep one night. In this situation the family care givers through many family meetings divided up the duties and also brought in professional help so that they could still spend quality time with their dad until the end.
We have another client who lives in an independent living facility here in Glendale, Arizona that we provide about twelve hours of home care a week. She also has three children in their sixties; one in Portland, one in Oklahoma and one here in Phoenix. The one in Portland supplies no support or help whatsoever, the one in Oklahoma calls mom once a week and the one here is dealing with insurance, prescription issues, trying to keep mom from spending too much money and doing supplemental grocery shopping to fill in what our care giver does.
So with all this new info to chew on, what’s next? How about a mini-survival guide?
Survival Guide for the Family Home Care Provider
- Get other family members involved. If you have siblings I am sure that you have learned over the years what buttons to push to give them a jab. This is not the time for that. Lay it out as a a project that effects the extended family and ask them specifically what they can do to help. Many times when you ask for help you have a task that you need done and they will come up to that mark but no further. If you have clearly defined areas of involvement and ask them what they can do, you might be surprised that they will exceed your needs. If they are too far away to physically help then maybe they could send a couple of hundred dollars a month your way to buy some respite care from a local home care agency.
- Use mom’s social network. Does she still have friends and neighbors that are active? Maybe one of them could do some grocery shopping once a week or take her to get her hair done.
- Use available resources. Do an internet search for local agencies like the Area Agency on Aging, Alzheimer’s Foundation, etc. Also look into church organizations that might have a volunteer group to help with the elderly. There are hundreds of on line communities (some of which I write posts for) that offer Q&A help from their members. You are not alone in this, there are many others that have the same problems and can offer advice.
- Get some time off. Remember this is a job and you need a vacation. Even if it is only a long week end there are many home care agencies who can supply you with experienced care givers to give you needed respite.
- Make a schedule and stick to it. If mom calls and says she is out of mayo, you don’t have to run over there on your lunch hour to get it for her. Tell her to add it to the grocery list and you will pick it up on the normal shopping day. Once you start doing this she will understand that there is a structure and will comply with it.
- Prepare for the future. If mom only needs a little help now and then use this time to look at what the future looks like. Have you found a qualified home care agency when and if 24/7 care is needed? Have you contacted Hospice to see what services they offer and when it would be appropriate for them to enter the family of care givers.
You are a family care giver but you should think of yourself as the primary care giver not the only care giver. Allow others to help. If you develop a mindset that it is easier for you to do it yourself you will become grumpy and resentful and that is no way to remember mom’s last years.
I would like to let you know that my mother loves Verona. She says Verona is a wonderful person and a very good cook. I have noticed a change in my mom. She is not as depressed as she was and I know it is because Verona is taking care of her. Please thank Verona for me.
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