Stories In This Issue:
- Building A Care Team
- Taking A Break With Restorative Respite
- Introduction of OPAL Senior Center
- Assistive Technology Highlight
Family Caregivers often find themselves in a role they did not prepare for and are not medically trained to provide. Many family caregivers have other commitments such as a spouse and children, or if their spouse is the care recipient, they may still support their parents in some way. Often a family caregiver still works a job or volunteers to serve the community in some capacity. These relationships may be just as valuable in the life of the caregiver as the care recipient and it is vitally important that these relationships continue, so they are healthy after the caregiving role ends.
Should caregivers feel they are the only one to provide the care or take charge of the situation? In some situations, they made a promise long ago before they knew of the situation they now find themselves. Books have been written on this topic, family psychologists will speak on this topic, even lawyers and financial planners have a voice on the impact of “keeping the promise.”
If someone were to ask the person being cared for if they expect their caregiver to “give up” their job, relationships, financial security, mental health or even future security to care for them—the answer would be no. One mistake may be in thinking this will be a short-term situation, and often it is not.
When building a care team start with the connections currently in place and build from there.
This team can be folks who can provide a break by coming in and sitting with the care recipient. Consider a friend, neighbor, faith community leader or family member who they can enjoy a sports game or movie with. Perhaps they can pick up lunch and come stay for an hour or two while some errands or shopping are accomplished. If the weather and mobility allow, ask them to take your care recipient for a drive or a walk.
Other forms of support may come in ways of taking on tasks that are important and don’t involve caregiving, such as mowing the lawn, cooking, shopping, picking up prescriptions, cleaning, or even taking the car for an oil change or maintenance.
From a distance friends and family members can show support by calling regularly, sending cards, letters and photos. Sometimes a distant family member can pay bills online or manage other household tasks. One family shared the story of how a distant relative will call and “watch” a football game together or just Facetime and read a book so the caregiver can leave the house knowing someone has eyes on the situation.
These suggestions may sound unconventional, so let’s go with creative! Most families keep their loved one at home due to the cost of care or worry of proper care in other settings. These suggestions may be out-of-the-box but remember, a care facility has a staff of folks who work eight-hour shifts and get a break from this caregiving job—family caregivers deserve a break as well.
The National Institute on Aging offers a guide on how to share caregiving responsibilities with family members.
By: Emily Kearns
When we think of respite, that is taking a short break from caregiving responsibilities, what is our first go-to? It is often “taking care of business”—catching up on all we’ve let go of as we’ve had to prioritize our loved ones needs. We open the check book to pay our bills, get out the vacuum cleaner, do the long-awaited yard work. We think that this will help reduce our overall stress experienced while juggling caring for others and keeping up our home.
Guess what? You probably have found what I also learned when supporting both parents living with dementia. Taking care of business during my “off” hours surprisingly did not relieve the pressure I experienced. Not at all! Why not?
Provocative research by Dr. Dale Lund offers a surprise twist to respite. He found that for respite—taking a break—to be effective in reducing our stress and improving our sense of well-being, we need to be using that time to engage in something meaningful. Something that brings joy to us; most likely, something we used to enjoy but sidelined to make room for caregiving. This could be reading a favorite book, writing, walking, swimming, listening to music, attending an online class about travel, cooking or art. In fact, his research found that respite that is not meaningful engagement can actually contribute to feeling more stressed, depressed, frustrated, etc.
So—here’s the invitation. Let’s start the New Year by identifying what we have lost, what we put aside that used to be fun and make us happy. Then, let’s find a way to start to incorporate that into our self-care regimen. Why? For the sake of all. This also means that we need to flip the care partner scenario and, as care recipients, we need to be able to give permission to our care partners, especially our adult children and others, to use their respite time for fun. We can support them by suggesting that they take time to pick up something they once loved—to pick up where they left off. And, remember. The oxygen mask must go on you, first. Always! Otherwise, there will be no you, to put the oxygen mask on them.
Suggestions for Self-Care Practices
Meditation including music, color, visualization and focusing on where there is comfort and other sensation in your body—deep breathing to give that space. Also: laughter yoga, self-Reiki, forest bathing, art and more!
Additional tips to prevent or manage caregiver stress:
Learn ways to better help your loved one—attend classes and trainings related to your situation.
Find caregiving resources in your community such as adult day programs or respite services to give you a break.
Ask for and accept help including using apps to help create a web of supports with specific ways others can help.
Join a support group for caregivers and get counseling.
Take time for yourself and stay connected with family and friends.
Take care of your health to be physically active, choose healthy foods and get enough sleep.
See your doctor for regular physical and mental health checkups.
Website: On Caregiver Stress (Source: Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Women’s Health)
Website: On Reframing Respite and Dr. Lund
Book: "The Healing Self: A Revolutionary New Plan to Supercharge Your Immunity and Stay Well for Life," By Dr. Deepak Chopra and Dr. Rudolph Tanzi
BCDA is excited to open their 21st Senior Center—The OPAL Center—which stands for Online Programs for Adult Learning. However there are no doors or walls at this virtual senior center and members will participate in classes and programs online! More than 40 weekly class offerings such as fitness, line dance, Spanish, crafting, writing, meditation, Zentangle, drawing or watercolor, virtual tours of museums, cooking workshops, journaling, health topics, and more.
Voice reminder devices allow caregivers to customize reminders for their loved ones with dementia. Some voice-controlled technology allows caregivers to set a specific time for the reminders to play, while others work via motion sensor. Devices that work via detection of motion can be very beneficial for those who are prone to wandering, as caregivers can prerecord a message that reminds a loved one not to leave the home at nighttime as he or she approaches the door. For persons with dementia who only have minor memory issues, a small digital recorder, such as a memo pen or one that can be hung around the neck, might be helpful. With this type of device, persons can record reminders for themselves and play them back later.