One thing we all have in common is we’re aging
By Linda Ziac
April 18, 2017
The Caregiver Resource Center
Age changes us in fundamental ways. We may become more susceptible to disease. We may become more dependent upon others. We may begin to confront our mortality.
These changes may be hard on seniors, but they may also be difficult for their family members and caregivers. It’s never easy to accept that the person you care for is not who they once were.
If it is your spouse that you are caring for, you may miss the times when you were a team - working together equally to solve problems and to care for each other. Suddenly, your spouse is weaker than you and needs you to be the strong, healthy one. And this may come at a time when you yourself are worried about aging and health problems.
If it is your mother or father, these changes can be particularly difficult; here is the person who you have looked up to your whole life, who you thought could solve everything, who was invincible. Suddenly, they are weak, needy and fallible. Even if it isn’t one of your parents, but another older relative - or someone you are hired to care for - the changes that age brings can be disconcerting.
Dealing with the changes that age brings takes on several stages:
STAGE 1 - IDENTIFYING
Sometimes we don’t see the changes that are happening in the people we see everyday. We may not notice someone’s hearing or eyesight that is failing or we may not listen as closely as we could when they describe their symptoms or problems. It’s vital that we make a special effort to watch for changes; even small differences in behavior, thoughts or emotions that may signal larger problems.
Talk with the person you care for - ask them how they are feeling, what they are thinking - and make sure to listen closely to their responses.
STAGE 2 - UNDERSTANDING
When someone for whom you care is undergoing physical, emotional or mental changes, it’s useful for you to understand these changes as completely as possible. Talk to a doctor, join a support group, study up on the disease on the Internet or in the public library. In short, educating yourself can help you to understand change - which is an important step toward accepting change.
STAGE 3 - ACCEPTING
After you identify and understand the changes, you will be in a better position to accept them. This stage can be further facilitated by meeting with a certified case manager, counselor, or religious leader who can help you learn how to live with the changes.
The changes in your loved one’s body and mind may also lead to changes in living arrangements, where an assisted living facility or nursing home can provide the level of care that they need. Remember that change is a natural and predictable part of growing older.
The more you can accept change, the more you will be in a position to provide loving care to those who most need your help.
Find tools that can help everyone to regain the emotional intimacy that is lost. Sharing old memories, creating new memories, sitting in the garden, talking about the family; all help to keep your loved one connected to you. They may also help the family to confront their fears regarding loss and mortality.
Joining a support group for caregivers can also help you accept the changes you and your loved one may be going through.
FINDING SUPPORT WHEN YOU NEED IT
As a caregiver, you may be feeling alone. You don’t have as much time to socialize now that you have to care for a senior or person with special needs. Often times your own family may not understand what you are going through. If this sounds like you, you might want to try to find a support group.
WHY A SUPPORT GROUP
Support groups are one of the best places for caregivers to find others who are experiencing similar situations. They can help caregivers bond with each other, socialize and build a network of caring, supportive people. Support groups are important because caregivers can express their emotions in a safe place, and can hear from others who have gone or are going through some of the same emotions.
These groups are not meant to be group therapy, but they do allow people to understand that they are not alone, and to learn how others have handled similar emotions, crises and problems. Support groups can also allow people to share valuable information and insights into the dynamics of caregiving and specific illnesses or medical conditions.
TYPES OF SUPPORT GROUPS
A wide variety of support groups are available for caregivers, although these groups are often difficult to sustain. Some groups are designed for people caring for seniors with specific medical, psychological or physical conditions - such as Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, diabetes or other illnesses. Others have a more general focus, designed for caregivers of all ages and in all situations.
Think about what kind of support you need, and then start looking for a group that can help with that kind of support. Depending on your interests and time, an Internet support group may be an ideal option so you can share feelings and experiences with others while not taking up too much of your time.
WHERE TO FIND A SUPPORT GROUP
Support groups are formed in many different locations, and you can look around for the one that best suits your needs.
Here are some of the places that you might look for a support group:
• HOSPITAL: Hospitals often host a variety of support groups, particularly those that focus on a particular medical condition. Check the bulletin boards at your hospital.
• DOCTOR’S OFFICE: Ask your doctor if he or she knows of any caregiver support groups in your area.
• SENIOR CENTER: Senior centers are a great place to find support groups for caregivers, particularly those focusing on caring for a spouse. Call your local senior center to see what is available.
• LIBRARY: Check the local library’s newsletter and bulletin boards to see if there are notices of support groups that meet there.
• NEWSPAPER: Look under the community section of your local newspaper for information about local support groups, including times, dates and meeting places.
• CHURCH/SYNAGOGUE: Churches and synagogues often sponsor or host support groups. Check with your minister, priest or rabbi about these.
• INTERNET: Increasingly, the Internet offers a way for caregivers to net- work with each other—locally, nationally and internationally. Look at reputable websites, like AARP, to find information about support groups that meet in real life and in the virtual world.
• ASSOCIATIONS: Organizations like the Alzheimer’s Association often sponsor support groups; call the local or national number for the organization that interests you to see if there is information about any local support groups.
Source: Parlay International
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The information in this article is provided as an information resource only, and is not to be used or relied on for any diagnostic or treatment purposes. This information is not intended to be patient education, does not create any patient provider relationship, and should not be used as a substitute for professional diagnosis and treatment.
Please consult your health care provider for an appointment, before making any healthcare decisions or for guidance about a specific medical condition.
Linda Ziac is the owner and founder of The Caregiver Resource Center. The Caregiver Resource Center is a division of Employee Assistance Professionals, Inc. which Linda founded in October 1990. The Caregiver Resource Center provides a spectrum of concierge case management and advocacy services for seniors, people with special needs and families.
Linda’s professional career spans more than 40 years in the health and mental health field as a CT Licensed Professional Counselor, CT Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselor, Board Certified Employee Assistance Professional, Board Certified Case Manager, and Board Certified Dementia Practitioner. In addition, Ms. Ziac has 15 years of experience coordinating care for her own parents.
Linda assists seniors, people with special needs and their families; in planning for and implementing ways to allow for the greatest degree of health, safety, independence, and quality of life. Linda meets with individuals and family members to assess their needs, and develop a Care Team, while working with members of the Team to formulate a comprehensive Care Plan (a road map).
Once a plan is in place, Linda is available to serve as the point person to monitor and coordinate services, and revise the plan as needed. This role is similar to the conductor of an orchestra; ensuring that there is good communication, teamwork, and that everyone remains focused on the desired goal.