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Caring for Caregivers for Seniors

Updated on December 20, 2012

About the Author

Nearly thirty years experience in long-term care nursing and providing social services to help senior members of the community remain independent, I now provide partial caregiving to senior family members and am ready to do more should the need arise.

Taking Care of the Caregiver

You would be hard-pressed to find a more selfless type of individual than a family caregiver. In the movies, it's often depicted as a family member who comes to care for a rich relative in the hopes such care will be rewarded financially. In real life, this is rarely the case.

Family caregivers are most often people of modest means, caring for a family member in the same or similar circumstances. A person chooses to care for another family member out of love, concern and compassion.

Few people of any age, but most certainly senior adults, wish to leave their homes in the last stages of their lives if there is any alternative available. Many times, the only viable alternative is for a family member to take over the care of the senior adult. The senior may have to move in with the caregiver, depending on the circumstances, but that's still a far cry from moving into a nursing home.

The family caregiver abdicates a great amount of personal freedom to provide care that will almost certainly ensure as positive a quality of life for that senior adult as is possible.

Nursing homes have qualified and often caring staff, but that is no true substitute for being cared for by someone who genuinely loves you--and not for a paycheck.

Impact of Illness on Family, Caregiver

Impact of Family Caregiving

Family Care Givers Need Support of Family and Friends

Borrowing the well-known phrase, "it takes a village," about raising children and applying it to the family caregiver makes sense in theory. In reality, all too often family caregivers are solitary people, carrying out their day-to-day duties with little thought of asking for help.

But help is needed, whether it is solicited or not. Friends and family of the family caregiver need to be aware of how all-encompassing caregiving can be. It's a 24/7 responsibility with little or no personal time for the caregiver.

For family members who live a distance from the caregiver, there are a number of indirect ways in which you can provide assistance. Ease the financial burden of the family caregiver by assisting with payment of utility bills or be responsible for the purchase price of prescription medications for the caregiver and the care receiver.

Or plan a vacation where you can relieve the caregiver of his duties for even a few days. You'll reap the benefit of special time spent with the care recipient and allow the caregiver to recharge his "batteries."

If a vacation isn't in the offing, consider paying for a short respite care stay for the care receiver. Many long-term care facilities offer respite care for senior community members. The care receiver goes to stay at the long-term care facility for a short, pre-determined time period such as a week. The family caregiver is freed from responsibility for that time period.

Friends and neighbors can offer to help with any of the many day-to-day household or yard duties that must be done. Mowing the lawn or raking leaves can be near-to-impossible tasks to do for the family caregiver. Grocery shopping or getting to the post office can seem as impossible to a family caregiver as climbing Mt. Everest.

Congregations can support family caregivers in various ways, too. If the caregiver was a regular church attendee, but can no longer come to church, perhaps other members of the congregation can offer to stay with the care receiver so the caregiver can attend church services.

Socialization is one area that is sorely lacking for most family caregivers. Take it upon yourself to call the caregiver daily, if possible, or develop a calling schedule between family and friends. Visit the caregiver, take lunch, magazines, or just bring yourself.

Do You Know Someone Who Could Use a Break?

What You Can Do to Help a Caregiver

Anything you can do to help the family caregiver also helps the care receiver. A refreshed caregiver has more to offer the care receiver than a caregiver suffering burn-out.

Consider becoming a back-up person for the caregiver. One of the new e-readers might make a great gift. Or a subscription to the local newspaper. Or a year's Internet access. Think about what you might want or need if you were in the caregiver's situation--then do it or make it happen.


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    • L.L. Woodard profile image

      L.L. Woodard 6 years ago from Oklahoma City

      Fay, talk about someone who had a full plate! No wonder you were exhausted. But I imagine in retrospect you wouldn't trade that last year of your mother's life for anything.

    • profile image

      Fay Paxton 6 years ago

      I took care of my mother the last year of her life, while I worked a full time job and juggled my family. It didn't hit until about six months after she passed that I was completely exhausted. It is important to have a support system.

      voted up/very useful