CHICAGO (WLS) -- Over 40 million people are caring for older relatives, many with Alzheimer's disease or one of the nearly 100 other forms of dementia. It's a reality that strains working family's economic resources -- and can take a terrible emotional toll.
Charlotte Bishop, a certified geriatric care manager with Creative Care Management helps families navigate the difficult reality of finding or providing help and housing for their aging relatives, while dealing with the trauma of caring for a loved one who may not even recognize you. She joined us in the studio with some of her insights:
Things a caregiver can do to be prepared for crises...or simply for peace of mind:
--Be patient with yourself. A caregiver's role can be difficult at times and often downright messy and unfulfilling. Keep in mind that you are acting out of love, commitment or simply "doing the right thing".
--Keep a record of all medications including over the counter (OTC) and herbal remedies your loved one is using. This information can be stored in your phone, computer or notebook. Be sure to include dosage and frequency of the medication.
--Make a list of your loved one's health history: surgeries, major illnesses, etc.
--Make a list of all of the health care professionals involved in your loved one's care.
--Make a copy of all of your loved one's important documents, save them to your phone, computer, the cloud.
--Make a "grab and go" bag: copies of your loved one's ID, insurance cards, Power of Attorney documents for finances, healthcare. A copy of the POLST, if there is one. Include a spare key to your loved one's home, $5 in case they have to go to the hospital and they don't have their wallet with them and they want to buy a snack or the newspaper. Have a list of their meds in the packet and a list of any allergies that you know of. Include a list of people to be contacted in the event of emergency along with their phone numbers.
--Remember that there are resources in the community that can be of assistance to you and your loved one. If you don't have time to research them ask a friend, hire a care manager to do the legwork for you.
--Be prepared to feel imperfect and impatient at times and that is perfectly okay!
Things a caregiver can do in the midst of crises...
--Take time to get a cup of coffee with a friend, put your phone on vibrate for hour so that you can enjoy uninterrupted conversation.
--Make a list of the things you can delegate to someone else when you are asked "Is there anything I can do to help?"
--Take a walk outside for 15 minutes just to get a breath of fresh air. Look at the sky, the leaves, even the squirrels as they run around. Savor the moment.
--Give yourself permission to exercise, get a massage, haircut: whatever form of self-care feels good and gives your spirit a lift.
--Eat good food...not junk. Buy "yummy" food that feels special to you so that you are nourished, like your favorite fruit or healthy breads, while avoiding pesticides and artificial ingredients that tax the body.
--Remember that you cannot do it all. Establish a schedule for caring for your loved one. There will be times when the schedule falls apart, but more often than not, you will be able to succeed and feel a sense of accomplishment if you limit your "to dos" to 3 or 4 for one day.
--Arrange for someone e.g., a paid caregiver, friend, other family member to stay with your loved one or to look in on your loved one so that you are not responsible 24/7. Share the burden.
--Remember that adult day care programs are often a source of social engagement for individuals and provide solo caregivers a much need break. Often the frequency of visits can be adjusted according to the individual and family's needs.
--Some rehab facilities/ skilled nursing homes allow older loved one's to stay for as much as 1-4 weeks so that the caregiver can go on vacation and get some time away from the caregiving responsibilities. Take advantage of this. It is a gift of time for you and your loved ones.
--Say "no" to activities which do not fulfill you or make you feel as if you are being drained. This is a time for you to be selective in the activities that you do which are not directly related to your life or that of your family or older loved one.
--Say "yes" to offers of help.
--Congratulate yourself at the end of each day for having made it through the day. That is no small accomplishment.
How to avoid an elder care crisis