In “Me and These Men” May 5, 2014, MKC posts:
There are PLENTY of ways to lose your mind once your parent has moved in—but prior planning certainly does help. I address this same topic in my book, “What to Do about Mama?” on pages 72-73 and 77-78.
Providing Care in Your Own Home
As much as you think you can look dispassionately at the situation and develop realistic expectations, frankly, no one can imagine the scope of what he or she is getting into. How can you know the unknown?
But certainly, if this is the choice you make, be sure that you and your spouse or partner are as prepared as possible. Your home needs to be made safe and handicap accessible, with equipment such as grab bars and shower chairs. Throw rugs should be removed from walkways. It is best if you can provide one-floor living capability, which can be an extra challenge if there is no bathroom facility on that level.
Discuss how responsibilities will be divided among those living in the home, as well as those providing outside support. Don’t forget to talk about finances. Bringing your loved one into your home will put extra demands on your budget. Make sure you will have opportunities for respite and time for yourself; don’t “lose” yourself in the process of caregiving.
Most importantly, consider whether your relationship is strong enough to handle the demands of living together. If you have problems historically, they will continue or even get worse. Even if you believe you have gotten along well, be prepared; there may be some surprises you just didn’t foresee. Keep all the household members in mind—are there personality clashes? Then there’s the issue of the “others,” the ones who are not taking on the responsibility of front-line caregiving. Too often, they are the ones who second-guess or criticize you. If you haven’t felt resentment before, you will now, and that emotion can really destroy relationships. Are you prepared to cope with this ongoing stress?
If you opt to bring your loved one into your home, establish an open line of communication. Talk about and listen to expectations on both sides. It is so difficult to respect everyone’s roles when the parent-child lines become fuzzy. To encourage a positive and cooperative atmosphere in your home:
Designate a personal space for your loved one that is not too isolated from the rest of the household. Fill it with his or her belongings, collectibles, and mementos.
- Talk about individual routines, and try to accommodate everyone’s needs as closely as possible without compromising your household and family values. Will you have enough time for other family members? If your spouse or children are required to sacrifice what they hold dear, the household climate will become a breeding ground for resentment and conflict. Remember that family support is vital if the living arrangement is to be successful.
Emphasize household customs, and solicit support for avoiding unneeded disruptions. Will you be able to maintain important lifestyle concerns such as employment, social life, and vacation plans? Are you prepared to make adjustments?
As a family, discuss what you each value and what causes you stress.
Set boundaries in the relationship, but make sure to schedule time together.
Help the care receiver develop new activities and friendships.
Encourage mutual respect based on communicating wants and needs, not giving orders. Stress the importance of being open and honest with each other. This is particularly difficult when your care receiver goes around you to complain to the “others,” which also sets the “others” up to second guess your actions. Direct communication is the key to avoiding misunderstandings.
In response to Joy Johnson’s post (See below): 5 required skills for the toughest job in the world / LinkedIn
I was primary caregiver for my mother-in-law. After my responsibility ended, I wrote a book about caregiving: “What to Do about Mama?” by Barbara G. Matthews and Barbara Trainin Blank. As stated in Chapter Ten:
We are addressing here the characteristics and abilities of a good caregiver, under the premise that if you are a caregiver, these are qualities you may well already embody. And, if indeed, you feel you are lacking in some of them, we recommend that you work on developing them. They are attributes that not only facilitate performing your caregiving responsibilities but also can potentially enrich all your relationships.
1. Love, care, and compassion: First of all, and perhaps most importantly, caregivers have the ability to love, to care, and to have compassion. If you lacked these qualities, you probably wouldn’t be in the position of caregiving.
2. Commitment to family: Beyond the ability to love, caregivers have a strong commitment to family—and that family may include not only the nuclear family, but also extended family and in-laws.
3. Problem-solving: It’s important to know how to identify a problem, consider solutions, develop a plan of action, and put that plan into practice with determination and a “can-do” attitude. If they don’t have the knowledge needed, caregivers do not hesitate to research and discover how to solve problems.
4. Application of knowledge and skills: Caregivers often have a good base of knowledge from their professional or volunteer experiences in various caregiving or human services fields. Caregivers use what they know or learn to be better caregivers. They secure needed goods and services and advocate with healthcare professionals and institutions.
5. Strong work ethic: Caregivers wear many hats in executing their caregiving duties. They accomplish this vast array of tasks by being focused, consistent, and willing to carry through with their commitments.
6. Understand how much they can handle. Look beyond the current situation and anticipate how the demands of caregiving will increase as the care receiver becomes more debilitated. Make sure you consider your ability to handle future burdens. Caregivers must know how to set boundaries and request support whenever they find they are unable to deal with a situation or challenge on their own.
7. Effective communication. Caregivers communicate honestly and openly with all who are involved in the caregiving arrangement.
8. Ability to empower and facilitate. Caregivers respect the care receiver’s abilities and encourage independence. They provide the support needed for the care receiver to participate in life activities as fully as possible.
I’ve been writing some articles on the LinkedIn platform. When I was brainstorming content ideas, it struck me how many common workplace skills are needed when serving as a family caregiver. Of course, there are many more new skills that you will be required to learn on the fly! In my LinkedIn piece, I highlight five skills I found invaluable while serving as a family caregiver and patient advocate.
You can check out my piece here:
What skills do you find most helpful as you carry out your caregiving duties? What new skills were the most difficult to learn in order to be a successful caregiver?
So, why did I write a book about caregiving?
First of all, I worked for the Area Agency on Aging for over four years; it was my job to visit seniors in their homes in order to administer comprehensive assessments to determine their needs and eligibility for services. I saw firsthand the challenges for seniors and their caregivers.
Secondly, I was a caregiver for seven years. During the time I worked at Aging, my mother-in-law moved from Florida to our city in Pennsylvania. She resided in a supportive independent-living retirement facility. After living there for two years, she began to have falls, which required a cycle of emergency room visits, hospitalizations, and extensive rehabilitation. The “solution” to the problem was for me to quit my job so that my mother-in-law could move into our home with me as her full-time caregiver.
- Thirdly, I became active in a caregiver’s support group run by a local hospice. One of the group leaders suggested to me that I keep a journal. I also had a lot of e-mailed letters that my husband and I wrote to his siblings when we were trying to deal with the escalating needs of our caregiving situation. In addition, I was interviewed for a magazine article about support groups. After that process I thought, “I have all this stuff; what can I do with it?” I spoke to the author of the article, who was involved in her own challenging caregiving situation, and asked if she would be interested in co-authoring a book.
- And mostly, I wanted to make a positive out of something that had turned negative.
How long did it take to write the book and get it published?
- 6 months gathering information from questionnaire
- 6 months writing
- Submission and waiting
- Accepted and waiting
- Editing and waiting
- Proofing and waiting
- Published November 25, 2013
- More waiting
- Setting up social media
- Writing on social media
- And waiting
- Book events
- And waiting
What am I waiting for?
- Communication in general
ISN’T THAT WHAT BOOKS AND BLOGS ARE ALL ABOUT?
My blogging formula:
- Visit other caregiving sites
- Make comments about blog contents
- Discuss the information on my site
- Cross reference excerpts from “What to Do about Mama?
Thank you to the 20 of you who are following my blog (as of today). Since “everyone is a potential caregiver” I hope the information is useful to you.
For those whose caregiving sites I follow: Aging Parents: Making the Transition from Child to Caretaker; An Only Child’s Journey into Parent Care; Help! Aging Parents; Cape Cod Caregiver; Dog Tales; Mom & Dad Care; The Selfish Caregiver; I hope that my comments and sharing bring more activity to your sites.
Maybe at some time you will be moved to comment on mine. I would enjoy and appreciate your perspectives and suggestions.
Since caregiving is such a universal concern, I wonder, “What is holding everyone back?”
- Maybe caregiving is a topic non-caregivers avoid thinking about because “they don’t need it yet.”
- Maybe current caregivers are just too busy.
- Maybe the topic of caregiving is too gut-wrenching for former caregivers.
So in the meantime I wait
- For comments
- For something to happen
- For the time I can move on in my life