The month of November is considered National Hospice and Palliative Care month, and alongside this observance, it is also National Family Caregivers Month. National Family Caregivers month seeks to raise awareness of family caregiver issues as they provide care to their loved ones, often times sacrificing their own personal needs in the process. The month was first instituted during the NFC Month Proclamation by former President Barack Obama in 2012.
While providing care for the elderly and infirmed in the home is certainly a national issue, you don’t have to look past Saline County to find caregivers who could use an encouraging word or a much-needed break from providing care.
“As a hospice provider, we do everything we can to support the caregivers in the home,” said Angie Pogue, Nurse Care Manager for Fitzgibbon Community Services which includes Homecare, Hospice and Palliative Care. “Providing round-the-clock care is very draining physically and emotionally on an individual, and because we get to know them, we try to be very mindful of how they are doing while they provide that care.”
The Caregiver Action Network provides 10 tips for family caregivers to help them through. CAN is the nation’s leading family caregiver organization working to improve the quality of life for the more than 90 million Americans who care for loved ones with chronic conditions, disabilities, disease or simply the frailties of old age.
1 – Seek support from other caregivers. You are not alone!
Neighbors, fellow church members, fellow civic club members and other family members all are sources for help. Fitzgibbon Homemakers and More may also be a resource to provide some help around the home with cleaning and other household tasks. Also remember that there is help available when care becomes too much for you to bear.
2 – Take care of your own health so you can be strong enough to take care of your loved one.
According to the National Alliance for Caregiving, in a national survey, six in 10 caregivers sighted a personal decline in their own health while providing care for a loved one. This is no doubt related to changes in sleep, nutrition and exercise as well as an increase in stress. More than half (53%) of these caregivers feel their health has affected their ability to provide care.
3 – Accept offers of help and suggest specific things people can do to help you.
There are many people who are willing to provide help, but they often feel at a loss for how they can help. Make a list and keep it available of things that are needed. Then don’t be afraid to ask for help.
4 – Learn how to communicate effectively with medical staff.
Doctors and nurses can only make decisions on the information that they have. If your loved one has had a change in pain, sleep, appetite or frequency of restroom visits, or if they have had negative or positive reactions or effects to medications, be sure to communicate that information to their medical provider. Keep logs of certain behaviors that become a concern. For example, if you notice your loved one becomes particularly agitated after administering a particular medication, or if they become nauseated, logging these occurrences may help track down the cause.
5 – Caregiving is hard work, so take respite breaks often.
The Living Center in Marshall has a respite care program and adult daycare program for caregivers who need a break. They can be reached by calling (660) 886-9676, and arrangements can be made for your loved one to be cared for while you take a personal break or take care of personal matters. But there are times during which other family members or friends can step in and provide time to go to the store, the spa, out to dinner or some other stress-relieving activity.
6 – Watch out for signs of depression, and don’t delay getting professional help when you need it.
We have heard a lot about postpartum depression through the years. But what about caregiver depression? A whopping 91 percent of caregivers report having some level of depression; and six in 10 report that their depression is moderate to severe. Seeing a loved one in pain or struggling with the loss of ability can be overwhelming, especially over a long period of time. Fitzgibbon Mental Health can help caregivers who are struggling through this difficult season. They can be reached by calling (660) 886-7800.
7 – Be open to new technologies that can help you care for your loved one.
Cameras or baby monitors in the room of your loved one can provide you with a moment to step into another room of the house while still being close enough to be alerted if help is needed. This step away is needed. Likewise, many advances in durable medical equipment can help with mobility and sleep.
8 – Organize medical information so it’s up-to-date and easy to find.
Keeping a current list of medications, logs and other medical information at the ready can help if needed in an emergency situation. Write as much down as you can rather than relying on your memory. In an emergency, remembering important details can be a challenge, and you don’t want to miss something that could cause more problems down the road.
9 - Make sure legal documents are in order.
Documents including Durable Power of Attorney and Living Will, which includes an Advanced Healthcare Directive. These should be readily available so that anyone who provides care knows the wishes of the individual regarding resuscitation, IV fluids and other life support. These documents also establish who is able to make those decisions if the patient is unable to articulate them.
10 – Give yourself credit for doing the best you can in one of the toughest jobs there is!
Providing care to a loved one is seldom easy, but doing so sends a message to everyone that the love of family is important. Communities are as strong as the families who are part of them.
If you would like more information on Fitzgibbon Community Services which includes homecare, hospice and homemaker services, call (660) 831-3293.