By John Francis
According to the famous anthropologist Margaret Mead, the first evidence of civilization was a 15,000 years old fractured femur that had healed, found in an archaeological site. A femur takes about six weeks of rest for it to heal. In the animal kingdom, if you break your leg, you die. One cannot escape danger, cannot reach food or water and are merely meat for the predators.
A creature cannot survive a broken leg long enough for the bone to heal. A broken leg bone that has healed demonstrates that another person has taken time to stay with the injured, tied up the wound, carried the injured to safety and nursed them through recovery. Thus, caregiving is a sign of civilized society, and sooner or later, we all assume the responsible role of being a caregiver or a hapless care recipient. It is a fact that the job of a caregiver is not an easy one. It requires fifteen extra hours of work per week at least, which can lead to exhaustion or even depression, leading to caregiver burnout.
Here are ways to help you simplify and smooth life for your caregiver. Create a consistent daily routine for yourself and your caregiver. It will help run the days more smoothly, decreasing uncertainty, arguments, and decision-making, thereby reducing overall stress for both you and your caregiver and, thus, preventing caregiver burnout. Following a routine might free up some time and mental energy to help them take breaks and take care of themselves. Because it is often seen that the caregivers are so engrossed in their duties that they tend to neglect themselves.
A caregiving routine is doing the same basic activities around the same time each day, giving structure and a natural flow to the day, making the job of your caregiver easier. For instance, you may adopt a regular daily routine to wake up at 7 a.m., take care of personal hygiene with the help of your caregiver. Then, change to regular clothes and sit down for a hot breakfast of cornflakes, cut fruits, and tea, followed by medicines. You may reserve late afternoons for audiobooks, puzzles, or reading to allow your caregiver a break. You may experiment a little to find a daily routine that suits both of you. Start with the timing and activities you think would work best for you both, and make adjustments as required.
Respect Your Caregiver
Most people dislike being told what to do and when to do it, and your caregiver is no exception. But if you have a consistent routine, the activity is simply following what’s done at that time of the day. It may be eating, bathing, getting dressed, or any other routine of daily living. Once a routine becomes a natural part of your regular life, they will be more likely to go with the flow of activities and not feel like you are suddenly forcing them to help you do a specific activity.
Vice versa, caregivers must have a deep respect for the patient and their families. The home of the patient must be treated as a workplace. When a caregiver is respectful of a patient’s home, assets and choices, the patient feels respected, and it leads to less distress and an increased feeling of camaraderie. Moreover, practising constant respect encourages better communication and a better relationship avoiding caregiver burnout in the long run.
Surprises are unwelcome. When both you and your caregiver know what is going to happen, there is less uncertainty and stress in both of your lives. And when the caregiver can anticipate the next task or activity, they can mentally prepare and be more willing to help than if they feel surprised by an apparent random activity, regardless of how small. It will make their job easier.
Conserve their Energy and Your Own
Caregivers’ job is exhausting, especially if they have to make decisions all day long, no matter how small. A regular daily routine saves valuable mental energy because most tasks, timing, and activities have already been decided. It significantly reduces the number of choices they will have to make; thus, they can spend their energy on other things and avoid caregiver burnout.
Try to Sleep Better
Quality sleep is essential for good health, and a daily routine can also help you and your caregiver sleep better, avoiding caregiver burnout. For example, taking a warm glass of milk before bedtime or listening to an audiobook or some soothing music built into your daily routine will help you sleep better. Plus, having a steady sleep schedule helps you and your caregiver get better results, allowing your caregiver some rest or free time off their job to complete their work.
Spend Quality Time Together
Going about the business of life, perhaps you and your caregiver never had time for one another in the past. Now that you are thrown together, enjoy their company in your twilight years, spending some quality time together. With all the activities of daily living, spending quality time with your caregiver often gets overlooked. Make it easier to spend quality time together by building it into your routine so that you continue to share a relationship of friendship rather than that of servitude.
It could be as simple as starting each morning with a greeting and a hug, ending the day with a song sung together, enjoy a stroll in the park every Sunday afternoon, or having lunch at your favorite restaurant once a month. Vice versa, a patient may enjoy reading but cannot do so anymore due to poor vision or impaired brain function or love scrapbooking puzzles or board games. It should be the job of a caregiver to make an extra and honest effort to engage the patient in these pastimes.
Besides making them feel more involved, whole and capable, these activities go a long way toward decreasing feelings of distress in a patient and encouraging positive changes in their behaviour. It will also make their job more enjoyable and fulfilling, preventing caregiver burnout.
Remember to Be the Person You Were
The person you are now is likely to be different from the person you were before. It could be due to changes in the physical appearance, and mental abilities, worrying about the loss of the roles you fulfilled in life, anxieties about the future, or concerns about being a burden to your loved ones, as aging is a hard truth to accept. You may recognize these changes in yourself, and it can be both frustrating and scary.
You may tend to react by taking out this frustration on your caregiver. But regardless of the situation, remember that in most cases your caregiver is your loved one, who has apportioned a part of their own life to your care and might be missing out on any fun and enjoyment their peers or others in the family must be having, while they are doing their caregiving job diligently.
Even if they are paid, they have only helped make your life easier. Remember to be the person you were before, and develop some patience and a feeling of gratitude. It will go a long way in developing your relationship with your caregiver and will be good for you both.
Rethink Personal Boundaries
When it comes to personal boundaries regarding what can be talked about and what physical assistance can be taken, flexibility and complete honesty are the keys. Topics that once seemed taboo, such as toileting and bodily functions, are now your daily concern. You may have trouble bathing or getting on and off the toilet. And you may probably be embarrassed to talk about it or ask for help.
But being honest about it will ease life for both of you. Never hesitate to communicate your feelings about any issue to your caregiver. If you are unable to communicate due to slurred speech sometimes or a speech disability, write it in block letters. It will help them address the issue and do their caregiving job better.
Learn to Let Go
Caregiver stress takes a significant toll on caregivers over the long- term leading to caregiver burnout. Patience is a virtue when it comes to receiving care. There will be times when you are angry and frustrated at your situation, but do not take it out on the person caring for you. Close your eyes to disconnect from the concern, even for a moment, take a deep breath and do not try to address the issue again until you calm down.
It is an essential exercise to maintain your mental health and in stressful situations. Moreover, learn to let go of minor inadvertent omissions on the part of your caregiver or correct them gently. After all, no one is perfect!
Trust Your Caregiver
When receiving private care, you must trust your caregiver completely and yourself. Trust their ability to take care of you. No one is perfect. You are in unknown territory as they are; hence, it can be frightening for both, but they are trying to do the best they can in their caregiving job. The caregiver-patient relationship is very intimate, and it often involves confusing, complex, or emotionally challenging situations.
The first step towards better communication and a safe, healing relationship is transparency and the ability to ask for help. It holds for both the patient and the caregiver. To nurture trust, the patient should be able to request assistance when it is needed and to provide quality care and do his caregiving job better, caregiver needs to be able to ask the patient for help in understanding something new or clarifying a preference or concern.
Arm Yourself with Knowledge
If possible, learn all that you can about your health conditions and how you can provide the best possible information to your caregiver. Seek out information from your physicians, nurses, the internet and friends who have had similar experiences. Knowledge is power; it will help you guide them and instill confidence in yourself and them.
Furthermore, when you demonstrate that you are competent to make decisions about your care, your caregiver will likely take you more seriously and help you better in his caregiving job.
Practice Humility and Compassion
Remember, you need them as much as they need you, even if they are paid to do their caregiving job. You may still have a lot to learn about life. Learn to listen and consider their perspective. A home care environment may often involve a severely disabled or wounded person with impaired brain functions and capacities such as memory, motor skills, and speech.
These disabilities can often create frustration within both the caregiver and the patient. Frustration, in turn, leads to a tense and fractured relationship, which is not conducive to the home care environment or for the caregiving job. Instead of allowing frustration to overtake them, both caregivers and patients should seek to practice compassion. Compassion for others and themselves allow people to soften their hearts towards one another and reach a point of honest communication.
Offer Words of Encouragement
The value of encouragement cannot be highlighted enough. It goes a long way toward boosting the self-esteem of the patient and making them feel capable and in charge once more. Moreover, since being encouraging with patients benefits both the caregiver and the individual, it is beneficial to the quality of the relationship. Vice versa, a few words of appreciation from the patient to their caregiver will motivate the latter to do their caregiving job better.
Be an Active Listener
Each person has a unique story to tell, and learning to listen to them will quickly instil a bond and boost communication and understanding. Moreover, active listening creates increased rapport and helps build empathy in the patient-caregiver relationship and allows the caregiver to be better tuned to pick up on potential warning signs making their caregiving job easy.
Caregiver burnout is the worst thing to happen and leaves a feeling of guilt and bitterness in both the caregiver and the patient. It rankles for a long time, and sometimes it may be too late to make amends. But when practices like respect, empathy, active listening, transparency and patience are exercised, both a patient and a caregiver can foster a deep, caring and safe relationship.
In a home-care environment, these types of relationships are essential for creating healing and comfort. Although home care relationships can sometimes be challenging, both patient and caregiver can take these small, simple steps toward improving the relationship and creating a lasting bond.
About the author
John Francis is a professional writer with years of hands-on working experience as a support staff in senior living communities and centers and observing elders
closely in their post retirement life. He is a fun-loving person who loves to help
others, the core behind his passion for working with senior citizens.
He is currently working with various publishers to share his
experience and knowledge and to break myths about the old-age lifestyle and retirement. Reach him at https://thorncliffeplace.com/lifestyle-blog.
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