Posted on Jan 22, 2024, 7 p.m.
It’s a reality of life that as people age, performing daily tasks can also become more challenging. This doesn’t necessarily mean that they need to head straight to a residential senior care facility. A common — and often preferable — option is in-home care.
This usually involves finding a caregiver to support them. You might even decide to take on the role yourself. While this can be quite daunting, it can also be an enriching experience for both you and the care recipient. Nevertheless, it’s vital to get a good understanding of the role of a caregiver before moving forward.
We’re going to take a look at what makes the role of caregiver essential and some key aspects of the position to consider:
The Impact Caregivers Can Have
A caregiver can be one of the most important figures in aging adults’ everyday lives. When you choose to be a caregiver, you’re impacting the recipient’s ability to maintain some level of independence. Your presence and ongoing support help to empower your loved one to stay in the environment they’re most comfortable, which could boost their psychological and emotional well-being.
There’s also a certain amount of comfort involved with their caregiver being a figure the care recipient is already familiar with. It’s not unusual for older adults to feel anxious around strangers in care scenarios and it can take some time to develop trust. Your willingness to take on this role may help them feel less insecure about their care. Indeed, family caregivers often understand the cultural nuances that impact recipients’ relationships with care. This can make you better able to handle cultural elements of their care that might be less immediate in a senior living facility, where professional caregivers might need to take the time to gradually research and understand the recipients’ culture-related needs and expectations.
Addressing Cognitive and Physical Needs
Taking on the role of caregiver isn’t simply about handling basic daily tasks. Rather, it also involves helping to address your loved one’s holistic wellness needs. Sometimes, you’ll empower them to access resources and guidance to maintain their quality of life. You might also be instrumental in supporting them in adapting to fresh health challenges.
One of the key concerns as people age is their cognitive wellness. Reducing the potential for mental decline both improves the life experience of your care recipient and eases some pressure from your shoulders. This doesn’t necessarily need complex medical care. You can adopt some mentally stimulating activities into their routine. For instance, card games hold cognitive benefits for older adults, as they engage memory skills and promote close observation. Not to mention that the social element of card games can stave off the sense of isolation. Similarly, jigsaw puzzles, creative writing activities, and gardening are known to be great tools for keeping cognitively sharp.
As adults age, there’s also often the onset of physical challenges. This is a frustrating experience for your care recipient. As their caregiver, part of your essential role is to treat this situation with the empathy it deserves. Discuss the lifestyle changes they’ll need to make in a gentle but matter-of-fact way.
At the most basic level, you might need to integrate medications into their day. Beyond this, be practical in tailoring their routines to the specific needs of new health conditions they need to adapt to. For instance, those suffering from GERD need to make lifestyle changes related to nutrition and sleep, among other areas. Work with your care recipient to develop a diet plan that reduces alcohol and other triggering substances without giving up their favorite foods.
Navigating the Challenges of Adult Care
Another reality of the role of caring for an aging adult is there will be challenges. While it can definitely be enriching, it’s not always easy for you or the recipient. Finding effective ways to navigate these difficulties makes the experience more positive for everyone involved.
Some of the points you should focus on are likely to include:
- Maintaining boundaries: You will have close interactions with various parts of your care recipient’s life. You might even live with them. This presents challenges for you both in maintaining mutual barriers. After all, everyone needs their privacy and independence. You’ll need to develop clear and open communication with the person you’re caring for. Listen to their needs but also ensure they recognize yours.
- Managing stress: The responsibilities and emotional labor involved with caregiving can take their toll. Left unaddressed, this could disrupt your life and your wellness. Studies also show that caregiver anxiety can negatively influence the mental wellness of people living with dementia. It’s important to prioritize self-care. Take breaks from your caregiving duties, get regular exercise, and make time for your hobbies.
- Knowing when to transition: Sometimes care needs to change and home care is no longer practical. Recognizing when you’ve reached this point is vital for both caregiver and recipient. Take some time to regularly assess the situation. Look at whether your recipient is increasingly unable to perform multiple essential activities of daily living (EADs), like toileting and eating. If you’re uncertain, reach out to senior care professionals to seek advice and support.
The role of a caregiver is not just essential for aging adults, but also multifaceted. If you take on this responsibility, you’re likely to support the care recipient’s wellness while also adopting methods to empower them to maintain their independence. Throughout the process, though, be mindful of not neglecting your own needs. The ideal is a balance that sees the recipient getting the care they need while still giving you the space that you need to prioritize experiences that are important to your quality of life.
This article was written for WHN by Charlie Fletcher who is a freelance writer from the lovely “city of trees”- Boise, Idaho. Her love of writing pairs with her passion for social activism and her search for the truth. You can find more of her writing on Contently.
As with anything you read on the internet, this article should not be construed as medical advice; please talk to your doctor or primary care provider before changing your wellness routine. This article is not intended to provide a medical diagnosis, recommendation, treatment, or endorsement. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.
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