This November, in recognition of National Family Caregivers Month, Home Instead Senior Care® has some helpful advice for the 43 million Americans currently caring for family members.
"Taking care of an older parent or grandparent is challenging for both family and professional caregivers alike," says Molly Carpenter, Home Instead Senior Care's CAREGiver(SM) Advocate and author of “Confidence to Care,” a new book for family caregivers. "Often, there are no one-size-fits-all solutions, but our seasoned CAREGivers have a wealth of experience that can help families better cope and enjoy their time with their loved ones."
Home Instead CAREGivers offer the following advice for families caring for seniors at home:
Lead with your heart. Give your patience and understanding freely. Seniors often seek companionship, conversation – to be heard. Show you care by taking time to listen. They are, after all, human beings who need signs of affection and interaction with others.
Respect and accept who your loved ones are right now. Seeing changes in an aging parent or grandparent can be emotionally challenging, especially if they have Alzheimer's disease or dementia. Regardless of your loved one's new behaviors, however, always treat them with dignity and respect. Don't judge or get angry with them. Instead, validate them as the special human beings they are by asking questions, finding out about their interests and engaging them.
Address difficult behaviors with tailored-made solutions. Loved ones with Alzheimer's or dementia may exhibit behaviors difficult for you to manage - such as refusing to take a shower. Although these behaviors are daunting, never make your loved one feel embarrassed or uncomfortable. This may only distress them more. Change the conversation topic or start a new activity instead. For example, if your senior parent won't shower, let it go and try again later. Realize they aren't intentionally being difficult. You're the only one there for them in this moment, so be there with them. You can learn more about managing difficult Alzheimer's behaviors by visiting www.helpforalzheimersfamilies.com.
Enjoy simple pleasures and favorite activities. Find ways to enrich your loved one's days. It's a gift to enjoy simple things in life, such as opening a window to hear birds chirping, breathing in the fresh air or going for a walk. Remember their interests, and make an effort to explore those activities with them.
Take care of yourself so you can take care of others. Caregiving is tough work, so be kind to yourself. Take time to relax and for activities you enjoy. Create a support network of family and friends. Don't be embarrassed to ask for their help.
These tips were provided by the 2013 Regional CAREGivers of the Year: Deborah Shanley, Ernest Thomas, Jeannie Cleary-Burns, Joseph O'Kelley II, Linda Siedell and Mariana Selejan.