Good afternoon. Welcome to Demystifying Alzheimer’s. I’m your hostess Mary Yamin-Garone.
In Saturday’s podcast, I talked about self-care tips for caregivers. I’ll discuss more about that today.
Trying to find solutions to difficult situations is one of the more challenging aspects of caregiving. Once you understand a problem, taking action to resolve it can alter the situation and your attitude. You’ll have a more positive outlook and more confidence in your caregiving abilities.
Here are some steps you can take to find those solutions.
- View the situation with an open mind. You may think the problem is that you’re tired all the time when it’s really that you think you have to do everything yourself.
- Try a different perspective. Even though someone else provides help to your mother in a different way doesn’t mean it’s not as good. Solicit the help of a friend or contact the Family Caregiver Alliance or the Eldercare Locator to get information on local agencies that could provide care.
- Take advantage of other resources. Ask friends, family members and professionals for suggestions.
- Focus on keeping an open mind while listing and experimenting with possible solutions.
- If nothing seems to help, accept that you may not be able to solve the problem right now. You can revisit it at another time.
Communicating Is Key
Being able to communicate constructively is important. If done in a clear, self-confident and positive manner you’ll get the help and support you need.
- Use “I” instead of “you.” This lets you express your feelings without blaming someone else or putting them on the defensive.
- Respect the rights and feelings of others. They have the right to express themselves.
- Be clear and specific. Speak directly to the person. When both parties speak directly, the chances of reaching an understanding increase.
- Be a good listener. Listening is the most important aspect of communication.
Asking for Help
Asking for—and accepting—help is never easy. How often have you replied, “Thank you but I’m fine,” when someone’s asked if they can help? My father would respond that way most of the time. He was a proud man who wanted to take care of his wife himself. He didn’t want to burden others or admit he couldn’t handle everything.
Start by writing down ways others could help you. For example, someone could take your loved one for a walk several times a week (weather permitting). A neighbor could do some light grocery shopping or a relative or family member could fill out insurance papers. Breaking down jobs into smaller tasks makes it easier for people to help.
Help also can come from community resources and professionals. Don’t wait until you’re exhausted or your health fails.
Asking for help is a sign of strength. Don’t know how to ask? Here are some tips that will make it easier.
- Consider an individual’s abilities and interests. If you have a friend who likes to cook but not drive, ask them to help with meal preparation.
- Be ready for hesitance or refusal. Don’t take it personally when your request for help is turned down. The individual is turning down the task, not you. Don’t let their refusal stop you from asking for help again. The person who refused today may be happy to help another time.
- Don’t weaken your request. “It’s only a thought but would you consider staying with Mom while I go to church?” This sounds like it’s not important to you. Instead, use “I” statements to make specific requests. “I’d like to go to church on Sunday. Would you stay with Mom from 9 a.m. until noon?”
A caregiver’s job never ends. In addition to taking on the household chores, shopping, transportation and personal care, 37 percent of them also administer medications, injections and medical treatment to their loved one. Some 77 percent of those caregivers report the need to ask for advice and the person they usually turn to is their physician.
While caregivers will discuss their loved one’s care with the physician, they hardly ever talk about their own health, which is equally important. Building a partnership with a physician that addresses the health needs of you, your loved one and the doctor is critical.
Sometimes it’s just as difficult to communicate with a physician. Here are some tips to make that easier, too.
- Prepare questions in advance. List your most important concerns and problems. Issues you might want to discuss are changes in symptoms, medications, your loved one’s general health, your own comfort as a caregiver or specific help you need to provide the necessary care. The doctor only sees your loved one for a brief moment in time. Make sure you tell them what your concerns are regarding their daily care and health.
- Enlist the help of the nurse. Many of your questions probably relate more to nursing than medicine. Nurses can answer questions about various tests and examinations, preparing for surgical procedures, providing personal care and managing your loved one’s medications at home.
- Make sure your appointment meets your needs. For example, the first appointment in the morning or after lunch are the best times to reduce your waiting time or accommodate numerous questions. When you schedule your appointment, be sure you clearly convey the reasons for your visit so adequate time is allowed.
- Call ahead to see if the doctor is on schedule. Remind the receptionist of any special needs when you arrive.
- Bring someone with you who can ask questions you feel uncomfortable asking and can help you remember what the physician and nurse said.
Exercising is one of the healthiest things a caregiver can do for themselves. It promotes better sleep, reduces tension and depression and increases energy and alertness. The best way to make time to exercise is to incorporate it into your daily routine.
Walking is one of the best and easiest exercises. In addition to its physical benefits, walking helps to reduce psychological tension. Walking 20 minutes a day, three times a week is recommended. If you can’t get away for that long, walk for as long as you can, whenever you can. Perhaps your loved one can walk or do stretching exercises with you.
Learn from Your Emotions
Caregiving often involves a range of emotions. As a caregiver, you need to listen to them. They exist for a reason. They help you understand what’s happening. Even feelings, such as guilt, anger and resentment, contain important messages. Learn from them and then take appropriate action. Remember, you’re responsible for your own self-care.
Focus on following these practices:
- Learn and use stress-reducing techniques, like yoga, meditation and prayer.
- Attend to your own healthcare needs.
- Get proper rest and nutrition.
- Exercise regularly.
- Take time off without feeling guilty.
- Participate in pleasant, nurturing activities, like reading a book.
- Seek and accept the support of others.
- Seek counseling when you need it, whether it be a trusted counselor, friend or pastor.
- Identify and acknowledge your feelings. You have a right to ALL of them.
- Change the negative ways you view situations.
- Set goals.
That’s all for today. Thanks for listening. I hope this information was helpful.
Join me at 1 pm Saturday when I’ll discuss caregiving tips for traveling with someone with Alzheimer’s.