CAREGIVING CHALLENGES FOR SENIOR WOMEN

Dec 10th, 2011 | By Sharon Shaw Elrod MSW EdD | Category: For Senior Women

The Strain of Caregiving

The caregiving stories, advice and tips available on the Internet help all us caregivers learn more about how to do our job better.  Most of us want to do the best job we can taking care of our elderly loved ones.  They were there for us when we were younger, and we want to be present for them when they can no longer fend for themselves.  Contributing to their quality of life is one of our major goals when we spend time with them.

But the demands on our time and energy can take a toll on our quality of life.  If we aren’t careful we can lose contact with friends, feel emotionally depleted and lose physical energy just taking care of an elder.  Six years ago, I realized my mother-in-law was no longer able to take care of herself.  She wasn’t bathing, was eating only cereal out of a box and an occasional bowl of oatmeal, and wasn’t spending any time with friends.  We took her to visit an assisted living facility, and she ultimately decided she wanted to move there.

Fast forward six years.  She is now in a nursing home, living with Alzheimer’s and falling a lot because she refuses to (cannot?) ask for help.  Our caregiving is limited to taking phone calls when there is a problem and visiting her at least twice a week.  The nursing home has highly skilled personnel and we are confident in the quality of her care. But the emotional strain of concern for her well-being never goes away. I cannot imagine what life would be like if she were our full-time responsibility.  And I know thousands of women (and men!) live with that responsibility every day.

Christmas Wish List

We recently found an AARP article that described a Caregiver’s Christmas Wish List.  It’s very good, and we recommend it to our readers.  Within the article is a list of intangible things friends can do to help caregivers.  We reprint it here, with grateful thanks to Amy Goyer writing for AARP:

  • “I’ll research that new medication your mother is on and get back to you today.”
  • “I’ll go and see your parents for an hour or two while you go do something fun or get your work done.” (respite!)
  • “I’ll sort that huge stack of mail for you.”
  • “I’ll water your plants at home twice a week for you so it’s one less thing for you to worry about.”
  • “I’m going to the store – is there anything I can pick up for you or your parents?”
  • “I’ll go with you next time you take your Mom and Dad to a fun outing – let’s set the date now.”
  • “I’ll look over your parents’ new health insurance info and give you a summary.”
  • “I’ll come over and help you put up your Christmas decorations – it will take half the time and we’ll have fun doing it. Then you can get back to your duties with your parents.”

So the next time you see a friend who spends most of her/his time caregiving for an elderly loved one, take a minute to offer to help in a way that the friend will appreciate.



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