Are you one of the 65 million unpaid caregivers for a family member? 60% of caregivers are married and/or have paying jobs and may have responsibility for other family members too. These “Everyday heroes” provide 90% of long-term care in this country. This care is valued at 375 billion dollars. It’s no wonder half of caregivers report having spent most or even all of their savings.
While most caregivers report having a friend or relative to confide in, 1 in 10 say they don’t have anyone to share concerns or socialize with. Caregiver support groups meet and share their experiences. Your clinic or hospital is a good place to look for such groups.
With the holidays approaching, you may be seeing a family member for the first time in months. Here are some signs that a loved one may need the support of a caregiver.
Falls: Do they have dizzy spells? Vision problems? Look around their place. How is the lighting? Are there handrails and grab bars available? Throw rugs or clutter can lead to falls. Falling even once can result in broken bones. One fall may predict more to come. Contact a local agency on aging or your parish nurse for help evaluating safe surroundings.
Unfinished business: Are there piles of papers, unpaid bills, or legal matters that haven’t been dealt with? Organizing this paperwork will make it easier to help manage affairs in an emergency. Consult with an attorney about things like power of attorney. This is a good time to discuss advance care directives.
Concerns about driving: If you see multiple car accidents, tickets, warnings or dents and scratches on their car, it’s time to talk about driving. It’s good to have a thorough physical exam and recommendation from a doctor. Are there visual or hearing problems? Suggest a driving skills refresher class, which may also entitle them to an insurance discount. If it is time to hang up the keys, be sure to talk about options. Check with an area council on aging for information. Taxis, Uber and Lyft are options too.
Isolation: Loss of interest friends and activities can be a sign of deteriorating physical and mental well-being. Again, problems with hearing and seeing can be deterrents to enjoying activities. Senior citizen centers, and faith-based groups are good places to look for activities. Regular phone calls, Facebook and video chat help maintain connections
Change in appearance: Has there been a change in weight? Are they wearing the same clothes for days at a time? A flat affect may be a sign of depression. A review of medication by a health care provider will help determine if medications might be the cause.
There may come a time when the health of the loved one declines to the point that you can no longer help. Professional care may be appropriate. Consider investigating care centers in your area, check for waiting lists, and get your family member involved early. Do keep medical information organized: Keep lists of prescriptions, appointments, and insurance up to date. Make note of any questions you have before calling the doctor or clinic. Don’t hesitate to call. They’re there to help.
Prayer for Caregivers
Dear Lord: Bless this caregiver as she/he shows Your love to _____;
strength when she/he is weary;
gentleness when she/he deals with _____;
peace of mind when she/he is doing the best she/he can;
understanding when accepting the demands of _____;
and perseverance when dealing with the daily care necessary to sustain_____.
Help her/him to know that You are always with her/him. Guide and direct her/his steps in Your way and give her/him Your peace.
Assist all your servants who are involved with helping _____ provide this care. Bless their hands and hearts as they provide care and support to this caregiver.
We ask in Your name, Amen.
Andrea West RN, PhD, Parish Nurse, from Prayers for the Soul: Comfort for Parish Nurses & the People they serve.