Family caregivers play a critical role in delaying and preventing the institutionalization of chronically ill patients. While friends and neighbors may help, family caregivers offer approximately 80% of help in the home (physical, social, emotional, or economic).
When someone is moderately impaired, a spouse or children usually provide care. However, when they’re severely disabled, the spouse steps into the role of a caregiver. Although caregiving can be gratifying, it also has some adverse effects. Caregivers tend to experience considerable stress, called caregiver burnout, and health problems like frustration, isolation, helplessness, and fatigue. Amidst all rewards and challenges, family caregivers play a vital role in our lives.
Who Did We Interview?
Debra Hallisey is Certified Caregiving Consultant, a recognized speaker, author, blogger, and family caregiver specializing in the home care industry. Her contributions to caregiving issues for adult children for aging parents on her website Advocate for Mom and Dad and book- Your Caregiver Relationship Contract for Dementia Caregivers are notable.
Hallisey’s work is collective wisdom, resources, and guidance of people who care for their aging parents gathered into an easy-to-understand and use the website.
Let’s know what our expert thinks of family caregiving in the home care industry.
When hiring a caregiver, families must be sure of their requirements and what they expect out of a caregiver.
When hiring a caregiver, the first is to understand the financial implications of employing someone independently and not hiring from an agency. Many families are concerned about finances, so they will hire someone in the ‘gray’ market; by that, I mean on the side and without going through the work of making them an employee and paying taxes if they choose not to hire an agency. Hiring in the gray market has severe implications if you need to apply for Medicaid at some point.
Second, make your older adult a part of the decision-making process. If having someone live with them 24×7 is a boundary they won’t budge on, then don’t try and tell them or convince them out of the gate that this is the solution.
Start with several hours a day, several times a week. And as a family, decide on what you need the caregiver to do while on premises.
Third, feel free to initially go through several different caregivers and even agencies. Know that this is a process, and it is just as crucial that personalities match as it is to receive good care.
Maintaining the independence and dignity of the elderly and their families when providing care has become more critical than ever. Suddenly being dependent on even the most minor tasks is stressful for an older adult who has been independent all their lives.
Some ways to keep the elderly dignity intact when providing care are:
First, listen to the elderly if they ask you to do something a certain way. Too often, one of mom’s caregivers thought they knew best and would do a task the way they thought was better. Mom always had a reason for doing things a certain way, and if it was not a safety issue, I and any caregiver had to respect that this was still her home.
Second, by asking or telling the care recipient when they will provide care that is personal in nature and how they will do it. The caregiver has been trained in hygiene and personal care, but having a stranger suddenly do something to you without an explanation is an invasion of privacy. In addition, this opens the door to a discussion so that each party feels heard, validated, and in control of what is happening to their person.
Third, the family can help the caregiver by giving insight into the elderly. I would always tell the caregiver when there was a time during a month, like my father’s death or their anniversary, that would be difficult for her. It allowed them to understand if she seemed upset and opened the door to talk about it if they wanted.
Families have insight into one another, and helping the caregiver understand where behaviors may come from is invaluable to keeping the relationship smooth. These ways protect their privacy and maintain their independence and dignity.
Professional caregivers need downtime in the same way as family caregivers. Setting expectations with your seniors around breaks and time off is essential. Once mom understood that the state sets the rules for breaks and the amount of time for uninterrupted sleep, it helped her to come to terms with the idea that someone may be living with you 24×7, but you do not have the right to their time 24×7.
Family caregivers have to be willing to ask for and say yes to help. To manage stress, caregivers must set realistic goals, get connected, seek social support, and set personal goals.
When you don’t live near aging parents, you hope they are telling you the truth when they say, ‘I’m fine.”. When you understand how they live their life, i.e., cards on Wednesday, weekly visits to a senior center, and church on Sunday, you can ask about these social outlets during a phone call or visit. If a pattern starts where they are no longer engaged in these activities, it’s a red flag.
When you develop a relationship with their friends and neighbors, you can ask this third party for insight into what is happening with them. When you know what Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) are, you can subtly monitor these markers to anticipate when they need additional help.
There should be ongoing discussions about what they would like to do when they need more help to stay home. You can ensure that your older adults are well-taken care of by in-home caregivers. However, make sure not to start that discussion when they feel vulnerable, and things are getting out of control.
All the relationships in your life change when you become a caregiver. Frankly, I was surprised by how much it affected every relationship.
In my opinion, it is OK for caregivers to put aside certain relationships that don’t serve them while they are caregiving because not everyone understands what you are going through. It doesn’t have to be forever. While it may be expected to lack confidence and feel a little anxious, know that you aren’t alone. All you’ve to do is understand your parent’s/ spouse’s emotions, prioritize self-care, and keep a daily journal to express how you feel.
Being an expert and family caregiver for years, I would advise new caregivers to start with these tips on caring for their loved elderly. Just keep a positive mindset and know you can do it.
Caring for your family member can sometimes get upsetting, especially when you understand why you’re feeling the way you do and still experience the same. To deal with stress, talk to someone and follow some tips from our expert Debra Hallisey.
Don’t ever bottle up your emotions. Instead, find at least one person you trust.
We hope you found this expert Q&A as insightful as we did and had something to take away from it.
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