We Need to Talk: Starting the Conversation About Caregiving
According to the National Alliance for Caregiving, one in five adults today are family caregivers in some capacity to a senior loved one. This can be informal care or full-on, paid caregiving (although it’s generally more the former rather than the latter). While this is a noble and selfless task, it’s also difficult, stressful and at times overwhelming.
“Family caregivers are often called secondary patients because they, just as much as their senior loved one, need support, guidance and assistance,” says Allison Yancey, Executive Director of Residences at Wellpoint, an Independent Living, Assisted Living and Memory Care community in Huntsville, Alabama. “It’s very important for caregivers to search for and connect with resources that will help them navigate the caregiving journey while also caring for themselves.”
To that end, says Allison, caregivers need to recognize the issues in caregiving and know the steps to take in order to have the support you need moving forward.
“It comes down to the fact that you can’t do this alone and you shouldn’t have to,” Allison says. “Down that path is anxiety, stress and burnout, all of which will cause you and your loved ones to suffer unnecessarily. There are so many resources available locally and nationally that are designed to help caregivers and their charges enjoy a higher quality of life.”
No matter how different we all are as individuals, all caregivers run into similar issues. Here are just some of the most common ones:
- Managing time
- Dealing with stress, anxiety and depression
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Ignoring their own health needs
- Feeling like they will be judged if they ask for help
If that sounds familiar to you, here are some steps you can take to help improve the situation.
The First Step: Identifying Outside Issues
It may feel like you don’t have enough time in the day to sit and think about your situation and what’s causing you stress, but that’s exactly what needs to happen. First, carve out a chunk of time and write down everything that needs to happen in your life over the course of a week or a day. Write down any task or activity, no matter how big or small. Then, go back and take a look at the tasks with a critical eye. What things in particular are causing you the most stress? What are the things that would improve your life the most if they were removed from your plate? What are the tasks that don’t bother you or you don’t mind doing? For example, is grocery shopping a stress relief for you but managing Mom’s prescriptions sends you over the edge?
The Second Step: Setting Priorities and Making a Plan
Now, what of the tasks you’ve mentioned are top priority? Second priority? What are things you can let go (or outsource)? Put together a monthly calendar to plot out when things need to happen. Having this will be an excellent resource for an at-a-glance review of everything on your list.
The Third Step: Finding Resources
This is where the whole “you’re not alone” part comes into play. It’s time to start looking into resources that are available to you. Searching for resources does take some work, so this is a good task to ask a friend or other loved one to help with. You can also start with this list:
- AARP Family Caregiving offers free care guides, a caregiver support hotline, legal checklists, information on care options and an online community that supports all types of family caregivers.
- Eldercare Locator connects caregivers to area agencies on aging and other local resources for finding respite care, insurance counseling, transportation and other services for older Americans and family members.
- ARCH National Respite Network and Resource Center helps caregivers with programs and services that allow them to get a break from caring for a loved one. The National Respite Locator Service is a state-by-state list of services and assistance.
The Fourth Step: Asking for Help and Putting the Plan in Place
Now, it’s time to rally the troops. List the people you know you can call on to assist you, no matter how big or how small the task. Then go through and assign these people (or resources you’ve found) to the tasks that you noted were the most stressful/difficult/time-consuming. Be choosy – if your sister is available but is usually forgetful, she’s not the best choice to rely on when you need help right away. Once you’ve figured the people out, contact them and ask for their help. Be specific, because it makes it easier to say “yes.” If someone says “no,” take it in stride and adjust accordingly.
The Fifth Step: Ask an Expert
“One of the best things caregivers can do is reach out to a senior living community like Residences at Wellpoint to benefit from their knowledge, resources and advice,” says Allison. “We provide assistance, support and a listening ear to all the caregivers in our community. Experts like the staff at our community can help point you to resources you might not otherwise know about and also help you feel like you’re not alone in this journey.”
Residences at Wellpoint also offers free support groups and informational sessions that are open to the public. Our current series is “Caregiver Conversations,” and will take place on the first Thursday of every other month. These Facebook Live events are a perfect place for caregivers to learn, listen and ask questions from caring experts.
Caregiver Conversations Schedule
Thursday, October 1st at 12:00 p.m. – A Conversation on Change Fatigue
Thursday, December 3rd at 12:00 p.m. – A Conversation on Anticipating Grief
Thursday, February 4th at 12:00 p.m. – A Conversation on Healthy Relationships
Thursday, April 1st at 12:00 p.m. – A Conversation on Anxiety and Depression
Thursday, June 3rd at 12:00 p.m. – A Conversation on Healthy Boundaries
WHERE IT ALL COMES TOGETHER
At Residences at Wellpoint, we provide an exceptional experience for those who desire Independent Living, Assisted Living or Memory Care in the Huntsville area. As part of the broader Wellpoint Community “campus,” we cultivate an engaged, intergenerational community unlike any other. Here, we celebrate well-being with an array of social programs, innovative on-site medical technology, a healthy, fulfilling lifestyle and so much more.
Here, our residents enjoy complete freedom of choice as well as the ability to plan their days however they choose. This is because we take the tedious routines of everyday life off your hands so that you can enjoy your life any way you wish. Go on an outing, enjoy the community, get fit in the Via Center, enjoy our dining bistro, shoot a game of pool in the sports/billiards bar. It’s all waiting for you.
No matter what your needs are, we can meet them. Our lifestyle philosophy supports every need along your journey, whether you desire Independent Living, need the assistance of our Assisted Living program or begin to need Memory Care. However your needs may change, we offer on-site medical assistance and supportive services so you can continue enjoying the engaging lifestyle you love. Contact us to learn more!
Call us at 256.274.5312 for more information or to schedule a personal visit today.