Caregiver isn’t my profession, but it is something I do daily.
I take care of my grandmother because she was there when I was younger. She took me in during troubling times and helped me become a better person. I owe it to myself to give back since offering care is the most natural of gifts.
It’s been quite a challenge. The day-to-day activities aren’t difficult, but tend to be tedious. It can be frustrating with the speed at which we get things done. I’m young and energetic – I want to go, go, go, but I must take a step back and remember my grandmother cannot keep the same pace.
Caregiving is all about patience and it’s something I want everyone to begin developing today.
The boomer generation (age 50 to 69) makes up 27 per cent of the Canadian population. It means our parents and/or grandparents are now on the cusp of needing care. It’s a dialog I feel we all need to participate in because we should consider their well-being as they reach the later years rather than getting caught off guard.
The hardest challenge of caregiving is knowing you have a life to live.
We can’t always be there because we have responsibilities and relationships – but that’s okay. There are ways we can empower our loved ones so they’re able to care for themselves and go about their day-to-day activities. This is achieved through a mix of education and financial support.
The first thing we must do is to understand their needs.
I would recommend having a real talk with the person. I, for example, took an afternoon to talk to my grandmother about her daily activities, bills, finances, health, and goals. This gave me an idea of her financial stability and whether she had the physical strength and mental awareness to do activities.
The needs of an elderly person seem foreign to us younger folk. We take for granted our strength, flexibility, and energy. That’s not always the case with those whom we care for; yet we don’t have to drop them into an assisted living facility or nursing home – they’re still independent!
What they need are the tools to aid with the daily activities now that health and energy are dwindling. It’s the little things like an electric can opener or hearing aid. It’s big investments such as an EasyClimber stair lift to help them safely navigate stairs or a sit-down shower via Aquability to help with the daunting task of keeping clean.
I suggest shadowing the person for a full day to see their daily challenges. Keep a pen and paper on hand to keep notes about what items come to mind that could help with the challenges.
The second is to help them stay sharp.
It’s a scary thought but six out of 100 people (aged 75 to 79) will have dementia, exacerbated by a sedentary lifestyle (one many older individuals take). The slow pace of life begins to dull the wits.
We can encourage our loved ones to remain active and sharp-minded through several suggestions:
- Controlling the diet (low on foods that cause cholesterol and high blood pressure)
- Exercising regularly (even if it’s a stroll down the street or pacing around the home)
- Stimulating the mind (through reading, classes, and even video games)
- Cutting out smoking/drinking (with the help of help aids and support groups)
It’s all very challenging taking up the role of a caregiver for elderly family members (and friends). Yet, the big thing is patience and using the immense access to information and physical resources.
My grandmother is leading a happy life in her later years. I’d like to think I’ve contributed to that well-being and quality of life. You can do the same for your loved ones when the time comes.
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