Navigating the Challenges of Caregiving

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Learning how to take care of your elderly loved ones – and yourself while taking care of them – is a crucial part of life.

Providing care for an elderly loved one can be extremely rewarding, but at the same time, it can be overwhelming to navigate and identify the best care options. Friends, professionals, and other trusted advisors may be helpful in providing advice when faced with caretaking decisions and senior care questions. To help you navigate the challenges of caring for your loved one, here are some tips and advice.
Signs your loved one needs additional assistance
One question that many people have is, how to tell when it is time to get your loved one extra help? Some signs that may indicate assistance is needed include:
• Forgetfulness
• Frequent falls
• Leaving appliances on unattended
• Dressing inappropriately for the weather
• Poor personal hygiene
• Poor eating habits or weight loss
• Anxiety or depression
• Deterioration of physical condition
• Accumulation of mail, laundry or trash in the home
• A life-changing event, such as the loss of a spouse
• Noticeable differences after not seeing the senior for alength of time
• Recent unexpected hospitalizations that may have madethe safety of returning home questionable
Role of the family
As your parents or other elderly loved ones age, family dynamics may change; coping with the changes can be stressful for all involved. To make the transition better, it is helpful to communicate with family members and the loved one requiring care when possible. Conflicts may arise since not everyone involved will view the situation in the same way. Some helpful advice includes:
• Discuss caregiving responsibilities. Work together to find out where each person can best provide assistance.
• Continue to talk to each other through regular scheduled meetings or calls.
• Seek outside help. Consider joining a support group or talking to a trusted third party.
Caregiving
While providing care for an elderly loved one can be rewarding for family members, it can also be stressful and time-consuming. Here are some important points to remember:
Juggling caregiving with other responsibilities may increase stress for caregivers. In addition to caring for a family member, caregivers may have to balance a job, their own children and their other responsibilities. It is helpful to speak to your supervisor about the new challenges in your life. You may be able to work from home or take some time off from work under the Family Medical Leave Act. To make things easier at home, consider keeping a list of the most important things you need to do. This can help you organize what needs to get done and where you need help.
With caregiving, there are many areas to discuss in order to decide on the best person to provide care. Family members must determine who is going to be the primary caregiver. Who has the most time available? What is the best care setting for the senior? Having these discussions early on will help minimize stress and confusion down the road. It will also ensure that your loved one receives a smooth transition in care.
Get support. The most important thing for caregivers to remember is to ask for help when needed. The sooner you get the assistance you need, the better for your health and the health of your loved one. There are caregiver support services available to help you talk through any struggles and to find companionship with others who understand what you are going through. A geriatric care management service can help you arrange doctor’s appointments, evaluate your loved one’s needs and find the right support.
Caregiving can be a very rewarding experience for many family members. However, there are many challenges and obstacles as well. Putting the right support systems in place can help ease transitions and make the journey as smooth as possible, given the circumstances.
Joy Beller Shore is the director of care management programs at the Madlyn and Leonard Abramson Center for Jewish Life.

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