Get help with ABC’s of caregiving
For the Nevada Appeal
Care giving is not a science with a “how to guide.” It is more like an art and a final, privileged labor or love.
Janice R. Ayres, 89-year-old executive director and CEO of RSVP (Retired Senior Volunteer Program) and creator of the Respite Care Program will speak to caregivers at 6 p.m. Thursday at the Rectory of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Carson City. All are encouraged to call Deb Cash at 887-8846 or St. Peter’s Church at 882-1534 for details.
Most of the 50 million Americans who are now caregivers do not get any warning that their lives will suddenly and drastically change after their parent or spouse takes a terrible fall or is diagnosed with a serious illness. They often get a late night phone call from the hospital and their world changes.
In my case, I was told that my diabetic brother drove to the ER with his car – literally. He drove into the emergency room with his car. To save his life, the doctors amputated both of his legs before I could get to the hospital.
This is how quickly it happens for most caregivers, unless they get a little warning when they are told that a parent or spouse has some progressive disease like Alzheimer’s or cancer.
Caregivers are told by medical professionals that all they can really do is make their loved one comfortable and safe.
What most caregivers want (besides a miraculous recovery) is a “how to” book or guide that explains how to proceed. Unfortunately, all caregiving situations are very different so there is no such guide.
Some caregivers immediately move their parent or patient into their homes or they find the best possible residential care that they can afford. And, even others routinely travel long distances to set up care giving systems out of town that will probably be demolished like sand castles quickly after the caregiver has left.
A caregiver’s life often becomes a roller coaster of emotional, medical and legal ups and downs.
There are a few common “ABC’s of Care Giving” that help to “normalize” the situation and give the caregiver some needed feeling of control over an uncontrollable situation.
First, as the famous television doctor Mehmet Oz states, ” Caregivers must take care of themselves first, just as the heart pumps blood to itself before dutifully sharing it with the rest of the body.”
Second, caregivers must seek help from local groups and resources such as the caregivers support group at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Carson City or go on line to helpful Web sites like caregiver.org or caremanag er.org.
Third, a caregiver must have clear communication with the person that they are caring for regarding their wishes, the true financial picture and what living options are available to them.
Finally, and possibly the most difficult, whenever possible, a caregiver must allow their parent or patient in their care to make their own decisions about their life. This means without the caregiver putting their own standards or judgments on them.
It may seem highly unsafe to you to have Mom stay alone in her own house, but if that is what she wants, then, try to find compromises using paid caregivers, the local RSVP Respite Care Program and schedule routine visits and phone checks on her to minimize the danger.
• Deb Cash is the facilitator for St. Peter’s Episcopal Church Caregivers Support Group.