Feb 10, 2011

Listening to your Needs

In the world of care giving, most caregivers think that the only thing that matters is caring for their loved one...
By Shon Ingram

Believe it or not, this are two parts to the equation.


As I often tell my clients, you must take care of yourself first. If you are sick or debilitated, you won't be able to help or care for your loved one.

When our company assists a family member with geriatric care services or long term care placement, I find myself using the above sentence time and time again. You must listen to your needs and be well nourished, not only in mind and body but also in spirit. Take the story of Shirley below.

“It was hard to remember when I last ate, last did laundry (until I ran out of clean underwear a couple times). I just did not pay any attention to my own self-being. I had been ignoring pains in my mid-section until one day I doubled over in severe pain and off to the emergency room I went. I was admitted and surgery done within a few hours. The diagnosis was scar tissue that had wrapped around the bowel and caused an obstruction. The surgeon who cared for me was also caring for my mother. He scolded me something fierce!

He also passed the word to the rest of the doctors caring for my mother, they all came to my hospital room and delivered their own “scolding” speech.

Mom was in the nursing home at this point but my care giving duties increased while she was there rather than lightened. The nursing home called me and wondered when I was coming back as they did not know what to do for my mother.... can you believe that? It’s true!”

Shirley experienced what so many caregivers deal with on a daily basis. Once you get behind those four walls of that hospital room or nursing home, NOTHING matters anymore but your loved one.

The hardest thing you can do is to pull away and go home to take care of yourself. How can a caregiver achieve a well-nourished mind, body and spirit? Below are some suggestions.

  1. Establish an arrival and departure time. Don’t try to stay 24 hours a day. As hard as this may be, it’s essential that you get rest. Perhaps you so you can’t rest worrying about your loved one. Just being away from the situation will give your mind a body a chance to decompress, if just for a few hours.
  2. Remember to eat. Either make time to go get you something from the cafeteria or bring something in from home. Do not depend on snack machines and coke to fuel your body for the stress of care giving.
  3. Develop a good relationship with the staff at the hospital or nursing home. That way, you can depend on someone to not only look out for your loved one, but also for you.
  4. When you can take no more or your health dictates it, hire the services of a professional. A geriatric care manager can be a huge asset to the care of your family member. They not only look after the care of your loved one, but they keep you in constant communication on their health status.
  5. Gain understanding. A lot of the stress that we feel as caregivers comes from the constant barrage of information that is coming at us from many different directions. Get all the information you can on your love ones conditions and learn all you can. Often times, all the wondering and worry can affect the mind and body in so many ways.

These are some simple ways to be well nourished as you care for your loved one. As Shirley found out, there comes a time when the caregiver becomes the one needing care. Please, take care of yourself before it comes to that.

Shon Ingram is the lead consultant with Eldercare Life Solutions. ELF is geriatric care management firm that specializes in finding the resources that families need to care for their aging family members. Shon holds a bachelors in Health Services Administration and a MPA in Healthcare Administration. He founded the company after working as a nursing home and hospital administrator in several states. He can be contacted via the Eldercare Life Solutions website.




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Original content Shon Ingram, the Alzheimer's Reading Room