We all go through seasons of change in our lives. We begin as infants whose entire existence is driven by basic, simple needs like eating and sleeping. We grow to be inquisitive children whose favorite questions are who, what, when, where, and why. We navigate through puberty and finally achieve adulthood, and our needs move from simple survival to self-actualization through finding meaningful work and a sense of driving purpose.
The same is true for your journey as a family caregiver. You may experience several seasons of change if you care for a loved one over an extended period of time. In the beginning, you might mostly serve as a companion to your mom or dad, stopping by for visits, running errands, or just calling periodically to check in. Early caregiving tasks are routine and ordinary for most people. Grocery shopping, making a meal, watering the house plants or picking up and sorting the mail are simple tasks that anyone can do. Being a family caregiver feels like normal family activities, so the stress level has minimal impact on your life.
As the seasons change, so will your role and responsibilities as a family caregiver. You might begin to notice small changes in your parents or their home that will alert you to a change in the season of care. Remember that change always raises your stress level, so be careful to take care of yourself as the care landscape begins to shift. Unexplained weight loss or weight gain, decreased mobility, or unexplained bruises are just a few of the warning signs that might indicate a need for help with nutritional support, walking assistance or even taking measures to prevent falls. Past-due bills in the mail or general clutter and disarray in the home that was once ordered and tidy could suggest a decline in the cognitive ability to sort and organize and manage life’s requirements. A reluctance to engage in conversation or social interactions with family and friends hints at problems ranging from depression or hearing loss to incontinence or dementia.
More complicated care needs require confidence and training. Tasks like helping your mom with a bath or engaging your dad in meaningful activities when he progresses in his Alzheimer’s Disease diagnosis are activities that you can do with assurance if you know what is required. When it is time to find someone who can supplement the care you give, it is critical to choose wisely and within previously agreed-upon parameters like where and how care will be provided, what the cost is and who will provide it. The great news is that with attention to detail and preparation on your part, you can navigate the changing seasons of care like a pro.
We hope you’ll join us this week at Heart of the Caregiver and share your heart about how you handle seasons of change.