Caring for an aging loved one is no easy feat. It’s a huge responsibility to take on, and one you likely didn’t prepare for at this time in your life. You’re not alone. It’s rare for family members to be fully prepared to take on such a vital role in the quality of their aging loved one’s life. Most people know the caregiving responsibility is coming but don’t expect it to come right now. So, it can be quite overwhelming and exhausting. However, these words of advice from professional caregivers can help you through this transitional period to make it easier for both you and your aging loved one.
Give your family members the freedom to forget
Dealing with an aging family member losing their memory can be quite difficult and frustrating for family caregivers. The things your loved one likes to do, the places they love to go, and even the people they’ve always known can quickly change. So, it’s important to avoid making assumptions. Your loved one may no longer remember certain family members, friends, places and even personal preferences they’ve had their entire life. Instead, focus on the now, and give them the freedom to forget without trying to convince them of who they were in the past.
“Do not assume your family member remembers even the simple parts of life they’ve always known. Do not assume they like what they’ve always liked: music, television, current events, travel, past favorite foods, visiting in large groups of people. Do not assume they remember the person in church greeting them, or the neighbor next door, or even you. Allow them the space to remember and forget at their own pace.”
Allow your loved one to change
With the prior mentioned, it’s imperative to allow your loved one to change. It can be tempting to try to convince them of what they liked to do, who they used to know, and ultimately, who they used to be. However, this can cause emotions to run high and frustrations to spark. So, allow and accept your loved one changing.
“Whether it’s a physical incapability or behavioral, realize that it is okay that your loved one is not the person you remember. Step back and realize the only way they can get peace is to let them be.”
– Jeannie, 2012 Caregiver of the Year
You deserve to take a break without feeling guilty
Family caregivers have a hard time leaving their aging loved one’s side. While it’s excellent that you jumped in to provide quality care when it was needed, it’s also important to take time for yourself. Juggling the responsibilities of caregiving, while trying to maintain your career, spend time with your family, keep your home clean, and still have time to see your friends is exhausting. You deserve to take a break and you deserve to do so guilt-free.
“The one thing I would advise a family caregiver is to allow themselves respite time, at least a couple times each month, without feeling guilty. A refreshed caregiver is a much better provider of care when they themselves have taken a much-needed break.”
Accept help when you need it
Often times, family members who take on the role of caring for an aging loved one feel like they have to be available 24/7. But as this caregiver implies, if you’re exhausted and overwhelmed, the quality of care will be jeopardized. So, ask for help and go on that family vacation, take a couple days to yourself, read a book in complete silence. That’s what respite care is for; we’ll care for your loved ones while you slip away for some well-needed rest and relaxation.
“You need to take care of yourself to take care of someone else. If people offer to help, accept the help.”
– Mariana, 2012 Caregiver of the Year
When they look great, they feel even better
Don’t let the age of your loved one fool you; they still want to look great so they can feel even better. Treating your family member to a new hair cut or to an updated wardrobe can work wonders for their spirits. So, take the time to help your family member look good and the positivity will extend well beyond what meets the eye.
“Washing their hair, getting a trim or a haircut can vastly improve how they feel and see themselves. Update their clothes as their size changes or they lose a lot of weight. Purchasing two or three brightly colored, patterned ‘senior bibs’ or ‘painting smocks’ that can be put on and washed every day can also extend the life of their clothes.”
- Theresa, Caregiver
Refrain from making your loved one feel incapable
One of the most difficult things aging seniors struggle with emotionally is feeling incapable. All of their life, they’ve taken care of themselves, along with everyone in the family. Now, they have someone else making decisions for them and enforcing rules, limitations, and/or boundaries. This can cause some hurdles for the family member providing care if not handled carefully. So, remove the word, “no” from your vocabulary and come up with new ways to enforce your role without making your loved one feel incapable. It sometimes takes a bit of creativity.
“Be considerate about things that may be embarrassing to them (e.g., helping them out of a wheelchair). Be as creative as you can be. If they’re confused about what is going on, ease the confusion by asking questions about their past and suggesting activities like going for a drive and pointing out all their favorite locations. Do what you can to make it feel like they weren’t denied anything.”
- Jeannie, Caregiver
Be patient and respectful
If there’s one piece of advice you take away from these professional caregivers, let it be this one. Every aging loved one deserve ultimate respect and care, and this often takes a lot of patience. So, always treat your aging loved one the same way you want your loved ones to treat you when you’re in a similar position.
“Regardless of the reasons they need care, it is important to provide loved one’s care in ways that are respectful of their dignity and independence. You need to be patient.”
- Mariana, 2012 Caregiver of the Year
With these pieces of advice, providing optimal care for your aging loved ones will come to you like second nature. However, for the times when you need to take a break, ensure the same quality of care with the senior living options available at 4 Seasons Senior Living.
Additional Caregiver Resources