THE QUANDARY OF CAREGIVINGDec 11th, 2013 | By Sharon Shaw Elrod MSW EdD | Category: Senior Moments Blog
Helpful Articles Abound on the Internet
The Internet guides for caregivers are so numerous it is difficult to both count them and sort them into helpful categories. A simple query, such as ‘caregiving issues’, produces over a million responses. And many of the articles offer very good advice for caregivers seeking help managing the sometimes overwhelming demands on their time.
Suggestions for caregivers ring similar tones… ask for help; accept offers of help; take time off to spend with friends; meditate; relaxation routines… All the advice is helpful, and much of it is focused on what to do for yourself as a caregiver. Individual response will be based on individual need and what ‘works’ for each. Choices will vary from one caregiver to another.
Start Where the Care-Receiver Is
A basic tenant of caregiving, however, is sometimes overlooked when articles are written about this issue. One of the things a caregiver can do to take care of her/himself is to change the way the care-receiver is approached.
Many helping professions teach their students to always start where the client/patient/care-receiver ‘is’. That means, if you are offering assistance to someone, you need to know how s/he defines need. What do they seek? Can they articulate what they want? Are they capable of pursuing what they want? Where the care-receiver ‘is’ means their psychological/emotional/physical state, as well as their understanding of their own needs.
What this means for the caregiver is this: Caregiving may be less challenging if you can stay focused on where your care-receiver is and what s/he needs and requires of you. Sounds too simple? Here are some examples:
- My father suffered from severe dementia the last few years of his life. I watched my hospice-trained sister staying pretty constantly focused on what he was saying, and did not try to get him to make sense when he was incapable of that. If he made an off the wall comment, she often simply agreed with him and changed the subject. If he said he was going to drive somewhere, she simply said, “Not today, Dad,” and changed the subject. She consistently remained focused on where he was. He was unable to engage in a rational conversation; she conversed with him as he was able, not as we may have wanted.
- A friend cared for her mother the last year of her life. The mother suffered from mild to moderate dementia and frequently made unreasonable demands on her daughter. Dementia contributed to some of the difficulty, especially when her demands changed from one moment to the next. My friend tried to keep a focus on responding to her mother’s immediate request, and balanced that with her own ability to meet her mother’s needs. If she was able to respond positively and there wasn’t a safety issue, she did so; if she was unable to agree to her mother’s demand and/or it was a safety issue, she declined and frequently had to then deal with her mother’s anger. My friend was comfortably able to get to the point where she could listen to her mother’s tirades without accepting responsibility. Not easy, but definitely possible.
Caregiving is one of the most difficult tasks any of us will encounter in life. It can be made easier if we start every day assessing where the care-receiver is, and then starting at that point with her/him.