What If I’m Not Cut Out to Be a Caregiver?
Care-giving can feel like falling down a rabbit hole. Know your limitations. You don’t have to be a full-time, live-in, caregiver. It’s OK. Maybe you don’t have the time, physical strength or temperament to be a caregiver. Can you find a place for your elder that fits their needs? Your elder may insist on staying in their home even if it’s not ideal. Allow them to experience some risk. They get to choose. If the neighbors call and say your elder is wandering about outside at night or they are in danger of setting the house on fire, it’s time to find them a safe living situation. Safety trumps choice.
Decisions about elderly people we love are painful. We want what is best for them, but what is best? It’s not always clear. I have worked in caregiving most of my adult life. To be honest, I came out of the womb a caregiver. From the time I could read, I read first-aid manuals and practiced bandaging on anyone who’d let me. I wanted to be a nurse since the third grade. I’m not normal, I admit it. Still, I often second-guess myself. Am I being overly protective? I can’t wrap them in cotton wool and protect them from life. Am I allowing them too much risk? Where is that line?
I have to constantly re-evaluate. My mom had another TIA last year. Usually the effects wear off quickly, but this time it took weeks. She couldn’t walk with her walker or feed herself. She still isn’t back to her earlier abilities. In-home therapists helped. She can use her walker now, with help. She can’t get up on her own. She is too unstable. She has near falls even when I’m holding on to her. I know this downward spiral will continue. I have to accept that. Reality checks are a part of care-giving.
One suggestion, if your elder, has a high risk of falling, a transfer belt is invaluable. A transfer belt is a wide, web-style belt that you can grasp as they walk or move from sitting to standing positions.
I ordered mine form Amazon but you can buy them in many medical supply stores. The belt itself looks like this.
The one I ordered is purple for a bit of color. When the elder is wearing this you can control their movement, help keep their balance and even if they fall you can control the fall and keep them or yourself from getting hurt.
My mom wears her belt 24 hours a day. If she has to get up in the night, she is often a bit confused, I feel much safer with my hand on her belt. If you are not familiar with one, ask your elder’s doctor to arrange some physical therapy visits and the therapist will teach you how to use the belt.
I can almost hear some of you thinking, “This is too much. I can’t do that.” It’s OK. Your role can be once a week checks, phone calls, maybe some grocery shopping or bringing a meal. Siblings can share the load. (Siblings and caregiving are a whole other post!)
If you decide to give daily, one-on-one care, cut yourself some slack. We can only do what we can. On any day we do the best we can with the gifts and abilities we have. Get help if you need it. I know I can’t work all day, every day. I have hired part-time help for almost eight years. Gradually I’ve increased the hours and days of help as our needs increase. I go through an agency. They do the background checks and assume the liability.
Involve your family. If you have children at home, let them help. My parents “come to life” when their kids visit. Someone new adds interest to their day. They love to hear what’s happening in the kids’ lives. Their great-granddaughter, sent videos of herself reading a book to my parents. They loved it! It was a children’s book, but it didn’t matter. My dad listened, enthralled, wondering what would happen to “Fire Cat” in the story. He listened to the same story for weeks every night before bed. It was his bedtime story and good reading practice for our granddaughter. Our grandson sends videos of himself playing the piano.
The point I hope to make is, do what you can and do the best you can. It’s all that’s required. You decide what that is. Don’t get in over your head out of a sense of guilt. You will be miserable and your elder will too.
There are many services available to help you find the best place for your parent. Someday we will need care. Threat your parents as you want to be treated. I wish you the best in your caregiving journey.
What decisions have you had to make as a caregiver or potential caregiver?