When you’re a caregiver, you have to expect the unexpected, especially when you’re taking care of an elderly patient. There are more than 50 million caregivers providing home care for the weak and elderly during any given year. To make things more hectic, only 25% of all U.S households are involved in care giving, therefore, if you’re a caregiver taking care of an elderly patient at home, you should be proud of yourself. Because of the popularity of care giving, men have started filling in for a chance to be in the care giving career. However, women dominate the care giving career, probably because of their nurturing nature.
If you think of home caregiving as an easy job, then you may want to consider the following facts:
- Home caregivers who are expected to provide 36 or more hours of weekly care for the aging patients are more likely to experience anxiety or depression than caregivers who work inside a senior care facility or hospital. The rate becomes six times higher for caregivers who are actually taking care of their aging parents.
- Home caregivers constantly lack sleep. Since they’re always making sure that the elderly patient has everything he or she needs, there’s 51% chance of not getting a proper sleep and a 41% chance of getting back pains.
- Caring for an elderly patient is stressful enough to cause a big impact on a person’s immune system for up to 3 years. It’s no wonder, since you have to make sure that everything is ready for your patient, from the adult diapers to making sure that the IV’s port protector has been changed to a new one.
Well, now that you know the happy facts of being a home caregiver, would you still care to try such a gargantuan task? If your answers is still a “YES”, then that’s great. We caregivers do have a to-do list in order to make things life a little less harsh when caring for an elderly patient at home.
1. Always remember to take care of yourself. This is the most basic to-do list that we caregivers usually adhere to. No, it’s not selfish and it’s an absolute must. I’ve been a caregiver for years and there’s really no sense of caring for an aging patient if you can’t even take care of yourself. Caregiving is a stressful job, where the combination of loss and obligation demands can really take its toll on your physical and mental well-being, so taking care of yourself is also a high priority.
2. Remember to reward yourself. Despite the stressful environment, taking care of an elderly patient at home pays really well, so perhaps having a nice dinner with a friend or loved one can help ease the stress for a day.
3. Have some personal time. Do something you enjoy as a hobby or perhaps you might want to do your personal chores. Taking care of an elderly patient does not need to hinder your own personal time. Besides, it helps calm down your nerves, therefore fighting depression and anxiety.
4. When things don’t go the way you planned, get help. Even for an experienced caregiver, I still ask advice from some of my older caregiver friends. Help can also come from community resources, family friends and professionals too. The friends and family of the elderly patient can provide invaluable help, especially if the patient seems too grouchy towards a new home caregiver. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, especially when you need it.
5. Last but not the least, protect your health. How can you take care of your patient if you keep getting sick? Give yourself time to exercise, eat well and for your personal grooming too. Limit your coffee intake and get lots of rest. You owe your body that much, since you can’t do your job if you’re not healthy!
Jessica Greenberg is a caregiver and avid blogger from San Diego, California. When she’s taking her well-deserved rest, she usually hangs out with her friends and is constantly updating Wordbaristas.com, a blog that she keeps with her group.