For the past 10 years, my aunt’s been a caregiver to my uncle. After losing his bladder to cancer, his health has fluctuated from being pretty good, to not good at all. It’s been a long road for my aunt and it’s not over yet. I worry about my beloved uncle. I worry about my wonderful aunt almost as much.
The stress of caring can be costly. Did you know care givers are at a high risk of dying, even before the ones they are caring for? This fact was emphasized over and over again in our San Clemente Villas gerontology seminars.
If you are the primary care giver to an aging loved one, I’d like to give you a head’s up – If you don’t get help, you will burn out. It could cost you your health. There are a lot of good reasons to share the load of caring. First, if you don’t get help, you and your loved one will suffer the consequences. Second, caring has its own rewards.
My cousins love their dad a lot. But when he gets sick, they seem to avoid even talking about the issue. They’re all grown people with children of their own, but they might as well be in grade school when it comes to facing up to my uncle’s problems. I’m working on them. They’re not there yet. They will have to step up very soon! I don’t want them to have regrets. I want them to cherish the time they still have with their ageing parents.
So here’s to educating our family and friends -
Sit down with a piece of paper and a pen. Write down the names of your family members who live close enough to help. Leave some space between the names. Now, write down the close friends of your loved one who also live close enough to help. Then write down the names of church members and neighbors who could help you in a pinch. This is your network of caring. Get them involved. They will be better for it, and you will too.
Let them all know that your loved one would appreciate a visit, a phone call, or just having lunch with them once in a while. Whether or not they are living alone, or in a retirement community, they still need to be connected to people they care about. Don’t let people forget them. Encourage your family members to make time for them.
While you are at it, ask them if you could count on them for helping you. Sometimes you can’t juggle your life to take mom or dad to the doctor. I bet someone in your network of caring wouldn’t mind helping out. But you have to ask.
E-mail is a great way to connect with your network of caring people. Keep them updated on what’s going on in your life and your loved ones’. I started a family Facebook page, so all my kids and relatives can get updates from me. It’s been much easier than calling them all and they can also let me know what’s going on in their lives. Only my family members can see the updates. I like that.
Moving them might be necessary – and good for them!
When your folks just have to have more help than you can give, it’s time to have that talk. Most good senior communities encourage you to visit their facilities, and have a meal which is what we offer and encourage. I’ve interviewed many elders in retirement communities and most of them say it’s the best decision they ever made. The activities and social connections are a new lease on life. Boredom can ruin anyone’s quality of life. So, don’t die a martyr. Get the help you need so you can be a cheerful caregiver!
For more helpful information about how to support your elders, visit www.SanClementeVillas.com. Or call me to schedule a free meal at our facility and take a tour of the whole place. Talk to our residents. Visit some of our scores of monthly social activities. Attend our lectures on aging. But above all, be sure to get some help if you are a caregiver to an elderly person whom you love.
I welcome your comments below about how YOU may be gaining support from family, friends, etc. as a caregiver. C’mon, share what you know below and that way everyone will benefit from what you have learned.