Sunday, January 10, 2010

Keep an Eye on the Family Caregiver – Part I

by Joy Loverde

If I had to create a “Help Wanted” ad as a way to hire a family caregiver, this is how the advertisement would read:

Person available and on-call seven days a week, twenty-four hours a day with no days off and little or no financial compensation. Qualifications:
  • Can speak medical, insurance, and legalese
  • Financial planning and bookkeeping
  • Juggle multiple scheduling systems
  • Car with valid driver’s license
  • Heavy lifting
  • Expertise in home maintenance and repairs
  • Dietician, meal planning, and chef
  • Medication management
  • Limitless patience
  • Ability to change plans in mid-stream
  • Social worker and spiritual director
  • Willingness to sacrifice personal time and put career plans on hold
  • Can withstand criticism and ongoing feelings of isolation
  • Loves surprises

Seasoned family caregivers know all too well about the stresses of eldercare even under the best of circumstances, and family caregiving is not necessarily a short-term commitment. Responsibilities very often last for decades.

If you are not acknowledging how family caregiving may be affecting he quality of your own life, and you do not recognize yourself in the “Help Wanted” ad above, then I beg you to ask people you trust if they think you are taking on way too much by yourself.

Too often, family caregivers have rigid beliefs on who does the care and how it should be implemented. Making hasty statements like, “My mother will never go to a nursing home!” and taking pride in not asking others to pitch in will surely get the best of you.

Unrealistic goals and unhealthy attitudes can sabotage the caregiving process. When we come face-to-face with our own limitations and can’t provide the kind of care we wish we could, we feel it’s our own fault. The truth is we may not be the most qualified person to take on all of the caregiving responsibilities all of the time. Limitations of relationships, time, stamina, and skill dictate how much help we can realistically offer.

Keep an Eye on the Family Caregiver – Part II and Part III will offer a self-assessment questionnaire.

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