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Posts Tagged ‘council on aging’

Do we always get along? Hell, no! That’s what I wrote in a recent article that’s now featured on The Shriver Report.org. (http://shriverreport.org/mothering-mother-caregiving-dementia-carol-odell/) People tend to romanticize caregiving–people who aren’t in it, or who haven’t been in it for very long. It’s the difference in making a movie such as Black Hawk Down compared to actually being in a real time war–bullets, IED’s and raining shrapnel down on your head. Caregiving days aren’t filled with marshmallows and clouds (all fluff). While there are tender moments when you can hear the angels sing, when you and your loved one have a very real and touching moment–these are rare because face it–relationships are, for the most part, messy.

Caregiving is part one part grit and two parts guts, and if you’ve always had issues with confrontation, then guess what? Here’s your own personal scavenger hunt because you will confront everybody from your sister who doesn’t want to pitch in–time or money-wise, to the home health aide who grabs your mom’s arm just a little too rough, and onto the CNA who whams your mother’s leg into a metal part of the underside of the bed and cuts her leg on the day of her discharge…and then tells you that you’ll have to go back to the ER (with its two hour wait and enough flu germs to warrant a quarantine) in order to see if her leg is broke (that really happened to a mother of a friend of mine).

Women are still, the primary family caregiver. Not that there aren’t amazing men out there–spouses, sons, brothers who are stepping up and never thought to do anything other than care for their loved ones. I get to meet these guys and let me tell you, they’re sexy. Nothing is more attractive than a good man who has integrity and heart, and I ought to know a thing or two about this because I happened to be married to one. Still, when it comes to sheer numbers, women take on the brunt of the caregiving experience. They’re single, divorced, dealing with their own health issues, or depression, working, raising kids and grandkids, and on top of all that–they’re caring for a parent, and sometimes two.

Stats on Women as Caregivers from the Family Caregiver Alliance/National Center on Caregiving:

Estimates of the percentage of family or informal caregivers who are women range from 59% to 75%.6, 7


The average caregiver is age 46, female, married and working outside the home earning an annual income of $35,000.8


Although men also provide assistance, female caregivers may spend as much as 50% more time providing care than male caregivers.9

When I said, “Hell yes, to caring for my mom,” I didn’t mean that caregivers have to go it alone–nor should they. Caregiving is a team sport. You simply CAN’T meet all of your loved one’s needs. You can’t. They need to be surrounded by a community. You can’t begin to meet their physical and relationship needs, and in fact, you do a great disservice to you both by not opening up your heart and our home to others. Sometimes it’s simply because it’s a bruise to our ego to admit we can’t do it all, and other times we don’t even know where to begin to ask for help. It’s also true that you or your loved one may not find a good fit right away. Whether you call a local church and ask for a volunteer, call your local senior center or your local/regional Council on Aging to find out what resources are available, the key is to not give up.

Caring for my mom would eventually include my family–husband, daughters, her friends (one who graciously came down so that my family could slip away for a weekend), relatives who called and offered prayers and encouragement, home health aides, and eventually the good folks (chaplin, nurse, home care aides, coordinator, etc.) at Community Hospice of Northeast Florida. It took all of us–and it gave us purpose and a common connection. Saying “Yes” to caregiving also means saying “Yes” to the circle of care you and your loved one needs.

The Shriver Report.org. The Shriver Report.org is launching a site for women, by women (mostly) talking about subjects that matter–to us.

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It’s not what you think. Caregivers don’t dread the work, giving up aspects of their lives, or even the inevitable moment of death that’s to come.

I recently spoke at a caregiving event (sponsored by my friends at Community Hospice of North Florida) and I asked caregivers what they feared…and a quiet, thoughtful gentleman shared:

“I fear that something will happen to me and I won’t be able to continue to care for my wife.”

That’s one of the biggest fears–that our loved ones won’t be cared for.

I’m sure it’s different for each person, but there are a few fears that most caregivers have in common.

What’s your biggest caregiving fear?

By asking yourself this question, you can then face it and then begin to explore solutions.

I knew the second this gentleman said it, that it’s a big fear, especially for those caring for spouses. 

And yet, most caregivers don’t take proper care of themselves. They put off their own doctor appointments, forget their own medications, and go dangerously  low on sleep and rest. Most caregivers are generous, kind-hearted, and conscientious–with others, but forget to give themselves the same respect and attention.

Spouses worry about their ability to care for their husband or wife more than any other group. They’re typically close to the same age, which means they probably have health issues of their own. They want to keep their partner at home, with them, and make sure that every need, every inkling of a desire is met–but they can’t if they’re not here.

Adult children, sons, daughters, and other family caregivers fear burning out, giving up, or the onset of some disability/illness that will cause them to be unable to stand up to the unrelenting workload and emotional load that comes with caring for others.

Caregiver stress is a real problem in the care community and that concern takes on a physical manifestation in the form of heart disease, cancer, depression, or arthritis.

Caregiver Fears:

  • What if I die before my loved one? Who will care for them?
  • What if my back goes out?
  • What if I have a stroke or my cancer comes back?
  • What if I can no longer lift or move my loved one?
  • What if I lose my temperand do something I’ll regret? 
  • What if my depression gets worse?  
  •  What if I start forgetting important things like medication or if I left the stove on? 

The bad thing about fear is that it’s paralyzing.

We don’t run or yell or scream like we should (Ever watch a horror movie? The girl just cowers in fear). That’s our first reaction, but then we need to realize we’re in the grips of fear and make a plan–face the fear and decide our course of action.

My gentleman was still reeling from admitting his deepest fear, so it was important to give him the time and space to process his revelation. I asked him, and other audience members if they had a plan–a back up plan, and then I led him to some community resources who could help him figure out what would be “Plan B.”

Ask yourself: What can I do to give myself a sense of peace that my loved one will continue to be cared for?

Do you need to change your will? Ask someone to be his/her guardian and care advocate? Check into care facilities or purchase long-term care insurance? There are no easy answers, but doing something is better than doing nothing. Start small. Make a call. Ask someone.

My gentleman friend needed to know he had choices–agencies such as the Council on Aging, Urban Jax (in our area) and the Alzheimer’s Association who could help now, offer respite, home health care assitance–and later, he needed to consider small care home, memory disorder care home nearby (his wife had Alzeimer’s), information on Medicare.

By the end of the day, he said he felt better. He needed to face it, to say it out loud. He went home with the beginnings of a plan.

We tend to fear the unknown, and in the “caregiving world,” there are lots of unknowns. We turn our fears into monsters and we hide, deny, and ignore in order not to look at them. Their shadows loom above us, but when we turn on the light, admit our deepest fears and take a look around, we realize  we’re not alone.

The best way to defeat a monster is with the help of a few friends.

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