Haims: Assist aging family and friends with a team approach (column)
Managing your family and the ebbs and flows of life can be challenging. However, when you’re assisting other people with their life and/or family concerns, things can often become more complicated.
Caring for others can often take an emotional toll on a person. After all, Sigmund Freud developed issues with substance abuse and neurosis. Carl Jung experienced visions and heard voices — what he called “menaced by a psychosis.” Even the best care providers can experience severe emotional burden when focusing on helping others.
The onset of winter always seems to be a challenging time for us at Visiting Angles. As temperatures drop and darkness comes earlier in the day, our workload increases dramatically. While our orthopedic recovery clients most often need short-term assistance with transportation to medical appointment and errands, many of our elder clients need a bit more attention.
Making sure the homes of our aging client’s are stocked with winter emergency supplies such as candles, flashlights, batteries and nutritious meals they can easily grab from the refrigerator, is just a part of what we do. We also need to make sure they don’t become isolated within their homes or miss medical appointments because they are concerned about driving in inclement weather or the dark.
Over the past few weeks, we have spent many hours with clients and their family trying to develop care plans. Changes in client’s cognitive abilities, concerns about falling and the fear of losing their independence need immediate attention and resolve. Even though we do this daily, it can be overwhelming for us, the professionals.
When possible, try and develop a team that can share responsibilities. Sharing the many roles of caregiving with family members and friends can ease the demands of assisting a loved one. However, coming to an agreement on who does what, when and how, can sometimes add to caregiving stress.
In such situations, we often suggest that families and friends develop some sort of journal and calendar that can be easily shared. Try using an application such as a Google Doc or any other cloud-based application that facilitates the sharing of thoughts, suggestions and development of tasks for each person involved in assisting. Streamlining communications is paramount for successful collaboration.
In our experience, there is not one clear piece of advice to guide someone through the process of assisting an aging loved one. Rather, you must be prepared to play many roles including nurse, financial consultant, scheduler, nutritionist, organizer and nurturer. While these all are important roles, the most integral role is that of being an advocate.
Advocating for someone other than yourself may not be easy. Learning how to advocate for an aging loved one is not tough — you just need the fortitude and desire. A good advocate is objective, listens and helps evaluate information. A good advocate also promotes independent judgment, is collaborative, sensitive, understanding and assertive.
Resources and education on assisting our aging friends and family can be found locally from Eagle County’s Healthy Aging, the Eagle County libraries, and the Alpine Area Agency on Aging — an association of the Northwest Colorado Council Of Governments. You are also always welcome to call us for questions and advice.
Nationally, helpful information can be found at the National Council on Aging (202-479-1200), The National Alliance for Caregiving (301 718-8444) and AARP at 888-OUR-AARP.
Judson Haims is the owner of Visiting Angels Home Care in Eagle County. Contact him at http://www.visiting angels.com/comtns or 970-328-5526.