Eldercare For Dummies
Caring for an elderly family member or loved one brings its own stresses and rewards. Your first step may be to convince your elder to accept help. A family meeting can help clarify issues and solutions, so make sure they run smoothly. And if your loved one needs care, he or she is probably going to see doctors; encouraging a partnership between the patient and his or her doctors brings many benefits.
How to Reduce the Stress of Caring for an Elder
Caring for an elder can be rewarding and personally enriching, but it is also stressful. Using the tips in the following list can help you relieve your stress and improve quality of life for both you and your elder.
Accept limitations — your own and your elder's.
Don't dwell on small annoyances.
Search for opportunities to laugh, such as watching TV sitcoms.
Eat nutritious meals and exercise every day.
Look for ways to save time and energy, such as shopping from catalogs.
Find out about your elder's medical conditions so that you know what to expect.
Use relaxation techniques like visualization, meditation, and listening to music.
Discover a new hobby or re-establish an old one.
Ask family and friends to relieve you of some of your time-consuming tasks.
Take advantage of professional respite care.
Join a support group.
Seek professional help if the stress seems overwhelming.
How to Get Your Elder to Accept Help
Getting an elderly person to accept that they need help when the abilities they've relied on throughout a long life are diminishing can be difficult for you and the elder you're caring for. The tips in the following list provide guidelines for easing your elder into acceptance of a new role:
Approach gently and be understanding, but express your concerns firmly.
Don't tell your elder there's a problem; ask whether he thinks there may be a problem.
Before suggesting outside help, familiarize yourself with community services.
Offer help, but don't take over.
Back off when you meet resistance and try again another day.
Have a respected doctor, clergy, trusted friend, or relative suggest help.
Explain how assistance increases independence.
Never introduce a professional caregiver as someone who "will take care of you."
Ask your elder's opinion about how best to handle the situation.
Make sure that your elder is well rested and well fed before presenting plans for help.
When your elder's perceptions of his or abilities don't match your perceptions, resist the urge to contradict.
Offer assistance in an off-handed, humorous, and casual manner.
How to Help an Elder Get the Most out of Doctor Appointments
Often, part of caring for an elder includes accompanying them to medical appointments. To make the most of these healthcare sessions, encourage your elder to use the following tips to promote a healthcare partnership with his or her doctors:
Take along a notepad or tape recorder to capture the doctor's comments and instructions.
Remember to wear your hearing aid and eyeglasses.
Don't be shy about asking the doctor to slow down or speak up.
Take someone with you to serve as an extra set of ears, take notes, and advocate for your well-being.
Put your prescription medicines, over-the-counter drugs, vitamins, and herbal remedies in a bag and bring them with you (or take a written list).
Take along a one-page concise list of questions and concerns, organized in order of importance (with a copy for the doctor).
Talk openly about your diet, alcohol consumption, and smoking habits, as well as major life changes (such as moving in with children or losing a loved one).
Ask the doctor to explain anything you don't understand in plain English.
Ground Rules for a Family Meeting about Eldercare
If your family is faced with getting or continuing care for an elderly loved one, a family meeting can be productive in airing issues and concerns and brainstorming solutions. Tips on running a fruitful family conference include those in the following list:
Don't speak for others by saying "we think" or "my family thinks."
Take responsibility for your own opinion or viewpoint by saying, "I think," "I believe," "I understand," and so on.
Don't interrupt anyone.
Encourage everyone (from the youngest to the oldest, from the shyest to the boldest) to express his or her opinion.
Choose a facilitator (for example, the oldest, most respected person).
Encourage family members to share their feelings by accepting all sentiments.
Don't allow blaming and criticizing.
Stop verbal attacks dead in their tracks.