Conservative estimates put approximately 10 million people in the United States in the group of caregivers for an aging loved one, many of which also have children of their own living at home. This makes them “sandwich” caregivers. Beyond the role of a caregiver, some are still working part, or even full time. It is a daunting task raising children, it is difficult being a caregiver for an aging loved one, and it is stressful to be a full-time employee while maintaining a marriage and family. To be able to do all of the above can be nearly impossible. Here we present a few bits of advice we have discovered over time to help caregivers maintain sanity throughout the entire process.
[quote_box author=”William Zagorski” profession=”Executive Director”]Remember, you are not alone. Care-giving can put stress on your own health and well-being if you do not allow yourself a break and take care of yourself.[/quote_box]
Accept the reality of being a caregiver. This does not always mean you are caring for a loved one 24 hours a day, it simply means you may be helping a loved one progress as they age; help make decisions, and help them get through the day. More often than not, you were a caregiver long before you came to the realization yourself. After you allow yourself to be the caregiver, take some time to look at care options and the choices you may need to help make in the coming years.
Educate yourself. Learn as much as you can about the conditions facing your aging loved one. Ask other caregivers and medical professionals for resources to help assist the learning process and what to expect in the coming years.
Make plans for the future. Being a caregiver is a long-term commitment. Even with the diagnoses of Alzheimer’s disease, Lewy-body dementia, or after suffering a stroke, your loved one will likely still live for 10 or more years, if not much more. In general, the demands of being a caregiver will increase over time. This can affect your job and family if you are not prepared, or do not seek advice or help. You are not alone, and help is available. Reach out to friends and family for assistance. Utilize your local Area Agency on Aging as an information source for financial assistance. Find out if your loved one is qualified for assistance from any other programs (VA, TennCare). Find support groups for yourself and your loved one to become, and stay active. By reaching out to others, you will enable yourself to fight the stigma associated with being a caregiver, as well as educate yourself about the options available to help you in the process. The old way of thinking “it’s either they live with me, or they go to a nursing home” is no longer accurate. There are many significantly less expensive means of assistance in caring for your loved one, especially adult day health care, and in-home care, which can delay or even prevent nursing home or assisted living placement altogether as well an increase the quality of life for everyone involved. Be open to alternatives.
When it comes to being a ‘sandwich’ caregiver, don’t forget about the rest of the family. Explain the situation and prognoses to your children and others. If possible, even involve them in the care-giving process. Endeavor to make decisions as a family, and make time for others without your aging loved one. Everyone is important and needs personal attention.
When it comes to working, make sure you search and weigh all of your options before making a decision. Many employers even offer assistance with caring for aging loved ones and may partner with local programs in the process. Adult day health care allows you to continue to work in a normal situation while allowing you and your loved one to remain in your own home each night. Sometimes a job change may be necessary to become a caregiver, but remember the benefits of a job, beyond the paycheck, i.e. social interaction and the escape from being a caregiver even.
Probably the most important part of being a caregiver, as well as the most overlooked, is taking care of you. You should not define yourself as only a caregiver, but you also need to have your own personal definition and attention. Remember, you are not alone. Care-giving can put stress on your own health and well-being, if you do not allow yourself a break, and take care of yourself. Get away on occasion. Make ‘me time’ and keep it. Stay fit and active on your own, and with your loved one. Find others in similar situations, through support groups, church, friends or family. Social and emotional support from others experiencing the same things you do is absolutely essential. Don’t allow yourself to get to ‘a breaking point’. Instead, ask for, and accept help when possible.
For more than 29 years, Centennial Adultcare Center has existed to provide this help to those who need it. We partner with the caregiver to share the responsibilities of care. In doing so, we provide the opportunity for your loved one to socialize with peers, while receiving personalized medical and social services, in a comfortable and secure environment, and at the same time, proving the much needed respite to the caregiver. For more information about the program please call (615) 289-3399, or make an appointment today!