ParentCare » Vol. 30

Caregiving Now

Denise M. Brown’s The Caregiving Years: Six Stages to a Meaningful Journey

caregiving-nowpicThe Caregiving Years, Six Stages to a Meaningful Journey helps you answer these questions: Why me? Why now? What now? Follow the journey of two family caregivers through the six stages. The handbook contains ideas to help you manage the bad days, the tough decisions and the overwhelming emotions.

When you expect a child, the community (your family, friends, co-workers) rally around you and your spouse. When you expect your first child, you receive gifts, well wishes and the encouragement that you are entering a wonderful, albeit challenging, chapter in your life. As you prepare to welcome your child, you feel pride at the thought of your role as parent: How you will shape the mind of a youngster, impacting him or her with your wisdom, insights and knowledge.

Now think about a similar life experience, just one on the other end of the spectrum. An aging relative, a spouse, a parent, a grandparent, needs your help. And, you want to help ~ you believe in making the most of the years you have left together. But, when you tell your friends, your colleagues, even other family members, the comments you may hear are a far cry from well-wishes. “I could never do that! Why do you?” Or, the more common response: “Why don’t you just put your mother [r your wife, or your grandfather in a nursing home? That way you won’t be so stressed out.”

With support like that, no wonder you might find yourself fighting self-doubts during your caregiving journey, asking yourself, “Why me? Why am I the one to do this?” The emotions these questions evoke can erode your ability to handle your caregiving responsibilities effectively and efficiently. Even worse, these self-doubts cloud your ability to understand how important this caregiving journey is ~ to your caree, your family, yourself.

Much like books for expecting parents, The Caregiving Years describes what to expect throughout the journey. By having information about your role as caregiver ~ you understand what information to gather and the actions to take ~you can spend more time making this experience meaningful for everyone involved.

The Caregiving Years is separated into six stages; you’ll find a keyword, purpose and action plan for each stage. Your caree’s illness and diagnosis will determine how quickly or slowly you pass through the stages. While the length of time spent in each stage may differ for each family caregiver, the emotions and experiences will remain constant.

Stage 1 – The Expectant Caregiver

Stage 2 – The Freshman Caregiver

Stage 3 – The Entrenched Caregiver

Stage 4 – The Pragmatic Caregiver

Stage 5 – The Transitioning Caregiver

Stage 6 – The Godspeed Caregiver

There is also a section on Resources.

Visit www.caregiving.com to learn more about their blogs, numerous groups, and to order The Caregiving Years.

Special thanks to caregiving.com

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Elders and the Holidays

caregiving-nowpic2For most of us, the holidays are a festive time of year. But for many elders, the holidays can be highly stressful, confusing, or even depressing if their mental, physical and emotional needs are not taken into account.

If you have older friends and family members with underlying health issues, you can help them enjoy the holiday season more by following these simple tips, based on advice from specialists in senior medicine at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) School of Medicine:

1. Stroll down memory lane. Holidays provoke memories, which can be especially powerful in the later years of life. “Leading authorities have observed that memory and ‘life review’ are important parts of the aging process,” says Barry Lebowitz, Ph.D., deputy director of UCSD’s Stein Institute for Research on Aging. “Older people whose memories are impaired may have difficulty remembering recent events, but they are often able to share stories and observations from the past. These shared memories are important for the young as well ~ children enjoy hearing about how it was ‘when your parents were your age…’.” He suggests using picture albums, family videos and music, even theme songs from old radio or TV programs, to help stimulate memories and encourage older seniors to share their stories and experiences.

2. Plan ahead. If older family members tire easily or are vulnerable to over-stimulation, limit the number of activities they are involved in or the length of time they are included. The noise and confusion of a large family gathering can lead to irritability or exhaustion, so schedule time for a nap, if necessary, and consider designating a “quiet room” where an older person can take a break. “Assign someone to be the day’s companion to the older person, to make sure the individual is comfortable,” says Daniel Sewell, M.D., director of the Senior Behavior Health Unit at the UCSD Medical Center.

3. Eliminate obstacles. If a holiday get-together is held in the home of an older person with memory impairment or behavioral problems, don’t rearrange the furniture. This could be a source of confusion and anxiety. If the gathering is in a place unfamiliar to an older person, remove slippery throw rugs and other items that could present barriers to someone with balance problems or who has difficulty walking.

4. Avoid embarrassing moments. Try to avoid making comments that could inadvertently embarrass an older friend or family member who may be experiencing short-term memory problems. If an older person forgets a recent conversation, for example, don’t make it worse by saying, “Don’t you remember?”

5. Create new memories. In addition to memories, seniors need new things to anticipate. Add something new to the holiday celebration, or volunteer for your family to help others. Enjoy activities that are free, such as taking a drive to look at holiday decorations, or window-shopping at the mall or along a festive downtown street.caregiving-nowpic3

6. Be inclusive. Involve everyone in holiday meal preparation, breaking down tasks to include the youngest and oldest family members. “Older adults with physical limitations can still be included in kitchen activities by asking them to do a simple, helpful task, like greasing cooking pans, peeling vegetables, folding napkins or arranging flowers,” Sewell says.

7. Reach out. Social connectedness is especially important at holiday times. “Reaching out to older relatives and friends who are alone is something all of us should do,” Lebowitz says. “Loneliness is a difficult emotion for anyone. Recent research with older people has documented that loneliness is associated with major depression and with suicidal thoughts and impulses.”

8. Beat the blues. “Seasonal blues can have a particular impact in the lives of older people,” according to Lebowitz. “In some people, the ‘holiday blues’ represent the exacerbation of an ongoing depressive illness,” he says. “Depression is a dangerous and life-threatening illness in older people. Tragically, suicide rates increase with age, specifically for older men. Depression is not a normal part of aging and should never be ignored or written off.”

9. Keep on the sunny side. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) or winter depression is an illness that can be provoked by reductions in sunlight during the short days of winter. It is important for people confined indoors, especially those at risk for winter depression, to be involved in activities that will increase exposure to daylight, according to Lebowitz.

10. Monitor medications and alcohol. Be sure to help them senior family members adhere to their regular schedule of medications during the frenzy of the holidays. Also, pay attention to their alcohol consumption during holiday parties and family gatherings. Alcohol can provoke inappropriate behavior or interfere with medications.

“Older family members with special needs can get lost in the shuffle and chaos of happy family gatherings,” Sewell says. “So, with all the hustle and bustle of the season, just remember to be sensitive and loving. And plan ahead.”

Special thanks to http://seniorliving.about.com.

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