Haims: Caring for a loved one can be frustrating
For The Aspen Times
Caring for someone you love can be challenging. It is one thing when the care is for a child, but when caring for an older family member or friend, most people are unprepared and often experience emotional and physical duress.
Caring for a young child is a little more predictable, involves less debate, and often provides more moments of excitement and hope as they learn new skills. Caring for a loved one who is older and less able to help themselves can be a big responsibility that takes a lot of time, patience, knowledge, and training. Should you be caring for an elder loved one and feel strained and overwhelmed to the point you question your resiliency, you are not alone and there is help.
Outside of the instances when a sudden health crisis quickly changes the direction of one’s health and well-being, caregiving for an aging loved one most often evolves over time. Often, caregiving begins with benign gestures of assistance. For example, you may find you need to remind a loved one of how to use a TV remote, oven, or telephone. Sometimes, you may find you help them with finding the word(s) at the tip of their tongue or assisting with tasks of daily life. However, in time you may find you are assisting with bathing, driving, mobility, and even emotional support.
At some point you may find yourself sitting and reflecting that your “you time” has become infrequent and even non-existent. It could take months or even years for this to happen. However, when you do become aware that you have not had time to pay attention to your own needs or health, hopefully you will reach out and ask for help.
Frequently I repeat the airplane mask safety speech to my clients’ carers. You know the one, it goes something like this, “be sure to place the oxygen mask over your own face first before assisting anyone else, even your children”. The reason for this: If you take care of others before taking care of yourself, should something happen to you, who takes care of the person unable to help themself?
It’s imperative that as a carer you take care of yourself. Should you find that while caring for someone, you occasionally experience physical and emotional strain that results in shortness of breath, chest pains, or a constant feeling of being tired, you need to reach out for help. Other signs that may indicate you need some help could be moodiness, you’re quickly angered or irritated, rapid weight gain or weight loss, your use of alcohol or medications/drugs has increased, and/or you’re experiencing difficulty sleeping well and for at least 6-7 hours a night.
When a caregiving situation causes extreme frustration, anxiety, or anger, it is time to ask for assistance and/or explore coping techniques. Rationalizing that “it will all get better” too often leads to denial of the current situation and could allow a situation to develop into a serious consequence.
Hopefully, you become aware of tenuous situations and take action to find resolve. Whether you seek the help of other people, a caregiving agency, or education resources that may aid in managing coping techniques, please know it’s okay to ask for help. Consider the following suggestions and see what works for you.
- Learn about breathing techniques to help you calm and bring oxygen to your brain.
- Allow yourself the opportunity to vent to a friend or family member. Everyone needs an emotional outlet.
- Recognize that you alone may not be able to provide all the help needed. Caregiving can be tiresome and stressful — everyone at some point needs help.
The Alzheimer’s Association is a great resource both by phone and online. Don’t be afraid to ask for advice and/or emotional support.
Judson Haims is the owner of Visiting Angels Home Care in Eagle County. He is an advocate for our elderly and available to answer questions. His contact information is VisitingAngels.com/comtns and 970-328-5526.