Many of us know an older person who requires assistance or close monitoring due to a serious illness or an ongoing health condition. And, there is a good chance most of us will find ourselves serving in the role of caregiver at some point in our lives. Research from the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) estimates that one in five Americans (21.3%) currently are caregivers.
In recognition of National Caregivers Month, everyone at Brandermill Woods wants to take a moment to applaud the efforts of those who give selflessly to attend to the needs of those around them. Our friendly team knows what it takes to offer support around the clock, and we are here for you or your loved ones should you ever need to take the next step with a Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC).
Caregivers are essential members of our society, and we thank everyone who fills this role. Below is some helpful information for anyone who might find themselves serving as a caregiver. We hope it helps you better support your loved one—but also helps you better take care of yourself.
Who is a caregiver?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines a caregiver as one who provides assistance with another person’s social or health needs.
Caregiving includes help with everyday tasks and activities such as bathing, dressing, taking medications, paying bills, shopping as well as providing transportation. It may also come in the form of emotional support by providing that much-needed companionship that many older adults lack but still require even as they age. Lastly, those with a chronic disease or disability who need special care to manage their condition are provided with the necessary assistance.
While caregiving often involves support for an older friend or loved one, the job applies to anyone offering care for someone else. Professional caregivers—including home health aides and certified nursing assistants—are employed in the healthcare field and work for organizations like ours.
But many caregivers are not healthcare professionals. Instead, they are family members such as adult children, or friends and neighbors, who voluntarily provide long-term care for their loved ones. This role is often thankless and emotionally difficult—but it is also one of the most powerful things a person can do for their loved one or family member.
5 tips for being a great caregiver
The willingness to take on the role and responsibility of being a caretaker already serves as a testament to one’s character. But it requires more than the strength of character to succeed for any length of time as a caregiver. If you find yourself in this role, here are five tips that may help:
1. Understand the person: Everyone is different and will require a personalized level of care according to factors such as their age, recommended diet and health condition. Ensure that, as much as possible, you have all the necessary information to provide adequate care.
2. Anticipate their needs: Some people find it hard to ask for help, even when they need it most. Anticipating and fulfilling the needs of the person is a great way to earn their trust and allow them to be at ease knowing that their needs will be met. 3. Show empathy and compassion: Aging can be a lonely and difficult process. The many changes that come as an older adult also take some getting used to. Practice showing empathy and compassion for your loved ones as they face difficulties or express their concerns.
4. Be vigilant: Caring for anyone requires you to be vigilant. Carefully monitor their behaviors, eating habits and vital signs so you can act promptly if there’s ever a change that causes concern. It’s better to be safe than sorry.
5. Set boundaries: Make sure to set healthy boundaries and manage the expectations of your loved one. While you’re there to help, make sure to prioritize your needs as well.
Caring for yourself as a caregiver
Even as a caregiver, it’s important to make time for yourself and prioritize your overall health, or otherwise you risk impacting your own quality of life. To help you feel your best so you can continue to provide top-quality care for your loved one, here are five more tips for self-care:
1. Keep stress at bay. If you’re not careful you can become overwhelmed by the stress that comes with caregiving. Practice mindfulness and find ways to reduce your stress with hobbies such as journaling, walking and spending time outdoors.
2. Establish a routine for self-care. Unless you set a self-care routine, you’ll find that things always get in the way and you’ll never have time to take a step back and reset. Don’t feel guilty about taking time for yourself. “Don’t feel guilty about taking time for yourself–carve out time and prioritize relaxation.
3. Exercise and eat a balanced diet. Exercising regularly and eating a balanced diet are two of the best ways to maintain your overall physical health. It’s also important to ensure that you’re getting a good night’s rest.
4. Join a support group. Nobody understands caregiving quite like your fellow caregivers. Joining a support group will help you to gain insight and get advice from those with similar experiences. Even if you can’t find one in your area, consider online options. 5. Explore a new hobby. Having a hobby is a great way to do more of what you like and maintain a social life outside of being a caregiver. Find something you enjoy and stick with it. If it’s a hobby that gets you out of the house for a bit, even better.
Reaching out for help
Grown children today are sometimes referred to as the “sandwich generation”—people between ages 35 and 55 or so who find themselves with the responsibilities of raising children while also caring for an aging parent. At some point, people in such a position may find they can no longer do it all. You can’t be everywhere at once, and you can’t do everything for everyone. If you reach that point, it may feel like a failure to ask for help. But depending on your loved one’s needs, reaching out for help can be the best thing you can do—for all parties.
Consider all we have to offer at Brandermill Woods
Here are Brandermill Woods we’re your family away from home. As a Continuing Care Retirement Community, we have the full range of supportive care for every stage of retirement, from totally independent and fancy-free to long-term nursing care. We provide peace of mind to families because our residents know they can age in the community they love—and they will be taken care of as their needs change.
One thing we have observed is that older adults who move into our Assisted Living community tend to experience rejuvenation. With around-the-clock care, they have the support they need, when they need it, while also having access to our many amenities such as:
- A wide variety of wellness programs
- 24-hour caregiving support
- Scheduled transportation to nearby shops, services and doctor appointments
- Full calendar of social events
- Assistance with everyday tasks such as bathing, dressing, grooming and toileting at our Assisted Living neighborhood
- A safe space and care for those dealing with memory loss and dementia
- Skilled and long-term care nursing services
To learn more about how we can support you or your family as caregivers, we invite you to schedule a tour by calling (804) 744-1173. We are here for you!