It is true that there are more senior citizens now, than ever before. In recent times, life expectancy has increased to such an extent that almost every family has some elderly dependents.This is a result of various scientific advances in modern medicine, and people accepting alternative medicine more readily. Things are fine as long as the elderly person is self-reliant – physically and financially. But, over time, the elderly person needs extra care . With the near disintegration of the joint family system, the problem of caring for the elders has only increased.
Prioritise and balance your responsibilities
Without doubt, anyone would like to be cared for by his kith and kin. And quite expectedly the primary caregivers are the sons, daughters or the daughters-in law. But, not everybody is attuned to being a caregiver. What happens when each of them in enmeshed in their own careers and families? They are torn between the twinge of their conscience — which needles them to devote maximum time and energy to the parent – and the realities of their own, spouse’s and children’s needs. The basic requirement for a caregiver is the right attitude, love and commitment to take care of your loved one. The role of a caregiver can be quite stressful, especially if you are thrown into it in case of a sudden illness, accident or even a particular family circumstance. Anger, frustration, and fear are some of the emotions associated with taking care of a sick parent or a beloved kin. Anger at not being able to spare the necessary time; frustration because we do not know how to balance the caregiving with the familial responsibilities; and fear of not knowing what to do and how to give the required care. Often we find elders not very co-operative. At these times we have to be firm, yet polite and respectful.
So how do we prepare for it?
Tips to be an efficient caregiver
Here are some tips that will surely help you when it’s your turn to be a caregiver:
- Understand that this is a transition period for both, you and the person you are to take care of, and take things on a day to day basis.
- Adjustment is necessary from both sides. It would be so nice if elderly people understand that the caregiver has emotional needs too, and strive to adjust as far as possible. There are times when you, as a caregiver, will feel the need for space. Do not hesitate to ask for help from the other family members.
- Don’t be overenthusiastic in providing help either. Unintentionally, you may be doing the person more harm than good by reducing his capability to perform.
- Prepare yourself for medical emergencies by keeping some ready cash in the house. This can only be achieved by timely foresighted savings. Medical insurance is another absolute necessity.
- Make your home safe. Hand rails, slip mats, and adjustable shower heads may be helpful in the bathroom. Night lamps can help in illuminating the hallway, and passages to the bathroom. If you have hardwood or tiled floors, they tend to be slippery after cleaning. So maybe you should use a no-frills carpet to reduce the chance of your beloved elder tripping and hurting themselves.
- It is not necessary that the person you are taking care of is ill. In that case, it would be wise to allow him/her to perform all their usual activities, along with maybe small workouts. This will encourage them to be independent and fit for as long as possible. Most seniors love to be socially active. So, if you can initiate them into some social activity, it will not only keep them occupied but also give them the feeling that they are being useful in some way. Many elderly people work part time, travel, and study the things in life they missed out during the years they worked, and experience the best part of their lives in these golden years. Encourage them.
- If by chance, the person is sick, [elders are especially prone to Alzheimer’s and Dementia], then you should take the trouble of learning about their illness, their medications and the precautionary measures necessary to keep them safe. You may have to deal with all aspects of personal hygiene and feeding, as well as try to continue to maintain normalcy in your own personal life. If we look around, we find that a person who willingly takes on the responsibility is generally hoisted with more, or even expected to shoulder it single-handedly, draining him/her – physically and emotionally. This is where the caregiver should give a thought to his/her own requirements and take the help of a paid care giving assistant for at least some of the chores. This will allow him/her to spare more time for his own commitments while ensuring that the parent is being taken care of properly. However, it has to be done subtly and tactfully without making the elder feel that he is being sidelined. Again, when you are appointing a part time care assistant, you have to check his credentials and his basic attitude towards care giving. However trivial the task, you are, after all, leaving your loved one in their care.
And finally, even if you are not a caregiver at this particular time, it may be wise to invest some thought into the role, as we never know when we will be put in this situation. We will not be caught off-guard then, and can be the best caregiver ever.