Senior.com, an aging resource, describes caregiving as “the hardest, most rewarding job,” which seems an accurate way to talk about the benefits and the challenges of this profession to residents of Dubuque and elsewhere who are tasked with helping people in all areas of their life, from standard care to hospice care.
The team at Above and Beyond Home Health Care also has trained staff available to assist with the physical, mental and emotional needs of clients. They can provide direct care themselves or work with a client’s existing caregiver to help with other needs, everything from specialized services such as massage therapy or occupational therapy to tasks such as light housework, meal preparation or an extra hand with errands.
The staff also knows and appreciates the sacrifices that often have to be made by caregivers.
While many of them take on these duties as a paying job, family members often do due to a sense of duty or obligation. In some cases, they may even put their own careers and professional growth on hold to help out a family member.
In these voluntary situations, the person is always on duty, and unlike a job, it doesn’t end after eight hours or have paid holidays or even official breaks.
But it can be something rewarding and a way to offer help to a loved one and return the favor from earlier in life, along with allowing them to stay at home instead of an assisted living or advanced care facility.
General caregiving can be challenging enough, especially if someone gradually becomes weaker over time due to advanced age or when dealing with certain health conditions.
Clients may be unhappy being in the situation they’re in and having to depend on others for major and minor needs. They also may be tired, in pain, bored at times, or even scared of what may be in store for them in the future.
Caregivers sometimes have their own feelings to deal with, including varying levels of guilt, anger, fear, sadness, resentfulness and more. They may grow tired or be in pain, while at the same time trying to make things as pleasant as possible for the person they’re caring for.
Burnout also can be high, especially if someone is trying to focus on their own health or that of other family members at the same time they’re providing are.
Stress levels can be high for all caregivers, but especially high for people caring for someone with dementias such as Alzheimer’s disease.
In these cases, people may present additional challenges:
- Memory loss. As dementias attack people’s brains, they may forget details of their life or their surroundings. This can include not knowing where they are or taking care of them, or looking for people from their past who aren’t around. Even being aware of this condition can cause everyone distress.
- Forgetting skills. Some of the signs of advanced dementia and other degenerative diseases can include a loss of some functions. They may no longer remember how to feed themselves, dress or groom themselves so a caregiver may have to assist with these tasks.
- Security risks. Part of the memory changes can lead to people wanting to escape, or if they do escape, they may not remember where they live or how to get back. While assisted living facilities often have locked doors and other security features, limiting access isn’t always something that the typical homeowner thinks about.
- General anger. The mental deterioration of Alzheimer’s disease and similar dementias can sometimes lead to sadness or confusion, which often is followed by anger or aggression. Because a caregiver is right there, all the time, it’s easy for them to become the closest target. Even appreciating and sympathizing what someone is going through isn’t a lot of comfort when someone is directing all of their anger at you.
Recognizing that caregiving can be challenging is a big first step in trying to figure out ways to find relief.
The Alzheimer’s Association said there are all sorts of ways caregivers can make time and take time for themselves. This includes finding ways to relax during the day, even if it’s a few minutes of quiet stretching.
Respite care programs are always helpful. This can include a caregiver coming by to take their place for a few hours while they do other tasks, such as errands of “for fun” activities. Some communities have off-site respite care centers, where clients can spend a few hours outside of their home so they can enjoy different surroundings with different people.
Communities also may have Alzheimer’s/dementia support groups, where people can share their feelings, enjoy social interaction, and realize many others are experiencing similar challenges, frustrations, and fears, as well as sometimes enjoying being able to help.
The team at Above and Beyond Home Health Care is happy to be a resource for caregivers who may need physical, mental or emotional support. We’ve worked with a variety of clients, especially many battling Alzheimer’s or other dementias, so we’ll gladly offer expertise and advice to others.