While we pay homage to the health care workers put in harm’s way during this pandemic, I’m reminded to call attention to all caregivers including those who are caring for aging parents and relatives.
During this time especially, when truly isolated from each other and their faith communities, caregivers need love and attention.
It is especially poignant that I write this on Good Friday, the day that many reflect on the journey of who they consider to be mankind’s greatest caregiver. “A cross we have to bear” is a popular expression uttered by many who describe everyday ordeals and sacrifices.
You want to do everything possible to let your family members age in place for as long as possible, but few understand the challenges of being a caregiver until they’re thrust into the role after a loved one’s medical emergency – a fall, a stroke, or cancer, for example. Just managing medications, organizing the immense amount of paperwork, and keeping track of doctor’s appointments associated with an illness are difficult. Adding complex care for a disease or disability to the mix, makes things even more challenging, especially since few are trained in things like managing incontinence, operating medical equipment, caring for wounds and giving injections.
An AARP study, Home Alone Revisited: Family Caregivers Providing Complex Care (https://bit.ly/2GslhNY), explores just how much family caregivers, many of whom are untrained, must do for loved ones. The report says that:
• 82 percent manage medications
• 48 percent prepare special diets
• 51 percent assist with canes, walkers or other mobility devices
• 37 percent deal with wound care
• 30 percent manage incontinence
If you are providing care for someone else on an occasional, part-time, or full-time basis, you may need a little support yourself.
Fear of making a mistake is prevalent among caregivers, with managing medications topping the list of fears. One resource for better handling and managing medical caregiving is a series of videos and resource guides (https://bit.ly/2m42DFJ) by the Home Alone Alliance. They teach people the how-to on a variety of care topics, including preparing special diets, G-tube feeding, diabetic foot care, and making a house safer.
Another set of videos includes strategies for easing day-to-day challenges and the voices of caregivers telling their individual stories. Some speak to the satisfaction that comes from caring for someone you love and keeping them out of an institutional setting. It’s a reminder that though the caregiving experience is isolating, your feelings of fear, angst, and stress are universal.
It is important to remember to protect your emotional health, prioritize your own self-care, and don’t underestimate the toll caregiving takes on your own life.
When flying on an airplane, you are always told that, in case of emergency, you should put on your own oxygen mask first BEFORE assisting others. Why? If you don’t take care of yourself first, you won’t be able to care for anyone else. The same holds true for every caregiver.