Five Ways to Tell If You Need Support in Caring for Your Loved One
1. You haven’t gotten a good night’s sleep in the last 30 days. A study from the University at Buffalo School of Nursing reported that nine out of ten people who are caring for a family member with dementia experienced poor sleep. Based on activity recorded from actigraphy watches, these caregivers had poor quality of sleep, woke up frequently, and slept less than six hours per night. Poor sleep is linked to being at risk for depression, weight gain, heart disease, and premature death, according to the authors of the study. Also, if a caregiver’s health is poor, their ability to provide the best care possible to their loved one is decreased. If you aren’t getting the sleep you need, everyone suffers. Depending on your loved one’s unique situation, solutions may range from having a bedside urinal to avoid nightly trips to the bathroom or a consultation with their physician to review medication side effects and options.
2. You have sustained an injury or feel more discomfort or pain than usual since taking care of your loved one. Transfers, toileting, bathing, and navigating the stairs are a few activities in which caregivers are assisting their loved ones that can be the most physically challenging. Researchers reported in a study in the Journal of Applied Gerontology that 94% of caregivers said they had musculoskeletal discomfort in at least one body part with the most common pain located in the lower back. Seventy-nine percent (79%) of the caregivers said the caregiving either caused or made their symptoms worse. Environmental modifications may relieve some challenges, but a detailed approach taking into account your needs, your loved one’s needs, the frequency of the tasks, the overall physical requirements, and resources available will likely result in a better plan for everyone involved.
3. You have found yourself to be more anxious, irritable, or depressed than usual. Even if you feel a sense of purpose or enjoy taking care of your loved one, most caregivers feel stressed at some point in time. According to The AP-NORC Center’s Long-Term Caregiving Poll conducted in 2018, caregivers use a variety of coping mechanisms when feeling stressed. On the positive side, 63% of caregivers surveyed prayed or meditated for their copying mechanism, and 51% of caregivers spent time outside. Negative coping mechanisms included sleeping less (44%), not talking about the situation (38%), eating more (32%), and drinking more (17%). Many times you may not even realize you are feeling increased stress until someone outside the situation identifies it for you. A care coordination professional can help you find and arrange for consistent and reliable support and respite to relieve some of the caregiving stress.
4. You have skipped doing things you enjoy (e.g., socializing, exercising, reading) or things you need to do for yourself (e.g., routine self-care, doctor’s appointment, work). If you have stopped doing things for yourself because of your commitment to caregiving, you are not alone, according to the AP-NORC Center’s Long-Term Caregiving Poll. The report said that the majority of caregivers said they have less free time to do what they enjoy, and one-quarter of caregivers said that caregiving has made it harder to manage their health. Half of the caregivers surveyed said they had used vacation time to provide care. Options used by other caregivers included changing their work schedule, taking leave without pay, or switching to part-time work. Working with a care coordination professional will help identify options for you to continue caregiving to the extent you would like but also allow you to do the things you need to do.
5. You are confused about your loved one’s health status, condition, medications, or prognosis and find it hard to get clarification from their healthcare team. If you are unable to go with your loved one to doctor’s appointments, it may be challenging to understand what is happening at the visits. The physician may say one thing, and yet your loved one hears something else. Your loved one or maybe even you may not know what questions to ask to clarify why medications are being prescribed, or specific tests are being ordered. Preparing for and following up on doctor’s appointments, prescriptions, and other orders is very important. What if you had someone to help you navigate the healthcare of your loved one? That is what our care coordination team loves to do. They have the experience to know what questions should be asked and what needs to be followed up on.
If you find yourself in any of the situations above, it is likely you and your loved one could benefit from the help and guidance of one of our professional care coordination teams.
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