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Being a Caregiver in West Seattle

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What Does a Caregiver Do?

Being a caregiver means help someone, usually a loved one, who can't live life on their own.  It can be as simple as doing the grocery shopping or laundry. It could also mean helping someone bath, get ready each day, or help with remembering to take medication. Typically, a caregiver spends a minimum of 20 hours a week providing care. The average caregiver in the U.S. is also a woman aged 46 who is employed full time, lives with a spouse or partner, and is taking care of her mother. 

There are around 44 million caregivers in the U.S. so if you're one of them you're not alone. If you are just getting started, it's helpful to know what to expect or even other areas you can look to help your loved one. 

Related: Assisted Living or In-Home Care? Comparing Costs in West Seattle

Help with Elderly Care

Here is a list of areas where most caregivers help:

  • Cooking
  • Cleaning
  • Tracking medicines
  • Helping with injections and other medical procedures
  • Laundry
  • Shopping
  • Making doctor appointments
  • Driving to doctor appointments
  • Pharmacy pickups
  • Paying bills
  • On call for emergencies
  • Helping the person bath and dress
  • Helping with physical therapy
  • Arranging care or handling a crisis

While caregiving is sometimes sudden because of an accident or illness more often it's a gradual process. You may do one or two of the items above today, and slowly help more and more each day.


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How to be a Long-Distance Caregiver

If you live an hour or more away from your parent it could be a bit harder to help out.  Although you want to help as much as possible, you can't just hop in the car and be there in a few minutes. Here is a list of things you can do to stay in the loop without losing your job and sanity while trying to care for your parent.

  • Set regular times to check on your parent via phone. You can make sure she's okay without disrupting your workflow and keep your peace of mind.
  • Check for local organizations that aid the elderly. Meals on Wheels is a good example. You can also get a list of other resources from your county government.
  • Ask a relative or neighbor who lives near your parent to see if they can regularly check-in.
  • Determine whether your parent's insurance will cover a visiting nurse or aide.
  • Keep a contact list of doctors, neighbors, and other important contacts of your parent.
  • Let your employer know the situation in advance.
  • Make regular visits.

When you visit your parent you should pay attention to the little things. Your mom may be covering up her needs because she doesn't want you to worry, but there are telltale flags that can indicate when all is not well:

  • Check their trash for discarded food packages as this will be a good indication of whether they're eating regularly. Likewise, look for outdated food in the refrigerator and pantry too.
  • Note whether there are any fresh bruises or other injuries that may be evidence of a fall.
  • Watch for weight loss, lethargy, depression, and other signs of health problems.
  • While chatting, ask whether your parent has been socializing, getting to appointments, and other trips outside the home.
  • Look for evidence of neglect such as a messy house that's usually neat or unpaid bills.

There are other ways you can help out without being in close proximity. Have a candid talk with your parent and ask if they would appreciate your taking over the bill paying, hiring a housekeeper to come in once a week, or having the yard work done.

 

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How to be a Good Caregiver for Elderly

While there's no exact formula for being a great caregiver there are specific traits and habits you can strive for that will make you a better fit for the job.

Helping the Elderly

Here are five things you can keep in mind that are the most important qualities a caregiver should endeavor to nurture when caring for an elderly parent:

  • Patience is the most important thing you can have. Elderly parents can get cross, argumentative, and downright cranky and that can make them hard to deal with on a regular basis.
  • Compassion is vital because you have to let your parent know you're caring for them out of love. Otherwise they can begin to feel as though they're a burden, and that can lead to depression.
  • Trustworthiness is a must because older people are often vulnerable. Make sure you keep their personal problems confidential, and don't talk about their valuables and personal possessions, either.
  • Reliability is crucial when you're a caregiver. Your senior depends on their caregiver to be there when they say they will and it's unacceptable to skip a day unless there's a medical emergency.
  • Flexibility is the last key to being a great caregiver. Plan to go with the flow because a senior has no control over unexpected illnesses and events. Although a schedule will be very helpful in caring for your parent it shouldn't be rigid because life seldom does what we expect when we expect it.

Learn more about caregiving

Senior Finances

As primary caregiver you should have a frank conversation with your parent regarding financials. While your primary concern may be whether the bills are being paid in a timely manner it's important that they don't feel like you're trying to take over their life. Many seniors enjoy the routine of paying their own bills and if this is the case then let them continue uninterrupted.

Protecting Elderly Parents Assets

On the other hand if you start to see overdue bills and shutoff notices it's a warning sign that they're probably becoming overwhelmed by the chore. There are several ways you can offer help in this area without being overbearing so consider one or more of the following points when you discuss financial matters with your parents:

  • Offer to sort and open the mail weekly and organize the bills that need to be paid.
  • Plan an hour a week to help them pay their bills and check account balances.
  • Set up automatic bill payments with their utility companies and bank.
  • Ask if they'd prefer you take over their legal responsibilities and have them grant you power of attorney.

Read more on Financial Planning for Long Term Senior Care

Financial Power of Attorney

Being granted power of attorney means a person is appointed to oversee a senior's legal business. This is a step that your parent should discuss with their lawyer as well as with their children and caregiver, as there are basically two types of power of attorney and they'll want to be sure they have the correct papers with their specific needs and wishes when the document is granted by the court. Note that power of attorney is for legal financial matters; there is also a durable power of attorney for health care and a medical directive, which is called a living will.

General Power of Attorney

    • A regular power of attorney grants the power to oversee legal business until the named person either dies or is incapacitated. This means if your parent becomes unresponsive the power of attorney isn't valid anymore; it's the type of power of attorney that's most often used when someone is out of the country or similarly unavailable.

Medical Power of Attorney

    • A durable power of attorney remains in effect if the named person becomes incapacitated. It allows the adult child or primary caregiver to oversee the elder's legal matters even if they become mentally incompetent in the eyes of the court.
    • A durable power of attorney for health care outlines who makes decisions regarding treatments and health care in general.

Living Will

    • A living will outlines the senior's wishes in the event they become incapacitated or unresponsive. By filling out a living will they can determine what actions should be taken or not in case such as comas, cardiac arrest, and other situations where life support may be provided. A living will can also detail tissue and organ donation wishes.

Apps for Caregivers

As with every aspect of our lives, there are many apps designed with the caregiver in mind. When you're waiting in the doctor's office or mom's taking a nap do some searches for topics on your own personal situation. Then you can download some apps that will help you in your caregiver journey. Here are some examples of apps designed to help caregivers:

  • iPharmacy: a guide to managing and understanding prescriptions
  • CareZone: a place to keep all of your loved one's medical information
  • WebMD: covers all things medical including prescriptions, symptoms, and medical conditions
  • CaringBridge: an excellent organizer to track appointments
  • Happify: cut down on caregiver stress with this handy app

Becoming a Caregiver for a Parent

Caregiving can be stressful and you should consider the realities of caregiving before making the commitment. According to the Family Caregiver Alliance the emotional and physical demands of caring for a senior parent over one-third of caregivers suffer from deteriorating physical and mental health due to the struggle of trying to balance their lives while providing care. As much as you'd like to do it all you simply can't, so don't feel selfish when you take time for yourself. Make sure someone else steps in and covers the care responsibilities on a regular basis so you can get regular breaks. When you get these breaks use them wisely: don't spend the time cleaning the garage or doing the mountain of laundry that seems to grow on its own. Instead, concentrate on self-care. Here are some ways you can take care of yourself while getting a break from caregiving:

  • See a doctor or chiropractor if you've been putting it off and neglecting your own health
  • Take a warm bath and follow up with a long nap
  • Get a manicure and pedicure
  • Go out for a quiet dinner with your partner
  • Go for a walk in a park or woods

Related: Caregivers Guide and Checklist

Caregiver Burnout

Because caregiving usually starts out slow and piles up gradually you may become overwhelmed before you know it. If you find yourself losing your patience or your temper or just bursting into tears then you're probably overwhelmed and need help.

Related: How to Overcome Caregiver Guilt

The first thing you should do is call a family meeting so your parents can talk with all their family members about what is needed. Get input from everyone and ask everyone to find three or four resources to bring to the next meeting. Here are some suggestions where you can find support; search online for specific contact information:

  • Local support groups for caregivers
  • Your county seniors' organizations
  • State resources for the elderly
  • National groups for seniors such as AARP
  • Your parents' doctor should have information on their health coverage. Ask whether they qualify for a visiting nurse or aide to help out on a regular schedule.
  • Respite care: most assisted living communities offer respite care, which is designed for a senior to take advantage of a live-in situation when their caregiver needs a vacation or is sick.

As a caregiver it's easy to put your parent's health before yours but remember, you can only care for them as long as you're healthy and able. Start having frank discussions with your parents, get your care routine organized, and don't be afraid or too proud to ask for help when you start to get overwhelmed.


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