Building Your Support Network
When caregiving is difficult and overwhelming, you may feel totally alone. However, you’ll find there are many others in your area who are also providing care to someone with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia. It can help to reach out to others who understand the challenges you’re facing.
Maintaining social contacts, family connections, professional networks, and peer support is an important safeguard for your wellness and happiness. Sharing tasks, solving problems, and savoring the humor along your caretaking journey will let you return to a life filled with good health and cherished memories.
Sharing experiences with others can help caregivers manage stress, reduce feelings of isolation, and recognize that they are not alone. Caregivers should find someone they can talk to about their feelings, like a fellow caregiver, clergy, friend, family member, or therapist.
Speak up when you need support or assistance. Help can come from community resources, family, friends, and professionals. Consider getting help to manage meals, transportation, social activities, and services to assist with other daily needs.
Whether your caregiving experience is a short-term or long-term situation, help is always welcome. If the person you care for requires substantial care, hiring support is an absolute must for your own sanity and the sake of your loved one receiving professional care.
While you are sacrificing a tremendous part of your life to be a caregiver, you should not surrender your own health and well-being, or what good are you to the one you love? If you have decided that a care facility, such as a nursing home or assisted-living facility, is not appropriate for your situation, consider employing a solid in-home worker who is experienced in a situation similar to yours.
Many in-home employment options exist, but don’t become overwhelmed by the choices and fail to hire help when you need it most—before a crisis. If an emergency situation occurs, your judgment may be impaired and you will be looking for help as fast as possible. It’s rare in those cases to find the best person!
And remember to always give yourself a break—both literally and figuratively—and realize you are doing the best you can by educating yourself and making the best decisions you can for you and yours.
Take advantage of community services
There are many services available to help caregivers in most communities. Some services are free and some are based on ability to pay or covered by the care receiver’s insurance. Leeza’s Care Connection is an excellent example of a community program that is offered free of charge to family caregivers, but check to see what’s available locally in your community.
Services that may be available in your community include adult day care centers, home health aides, home-delivered meals, respite care, transportation services, and skilled nursing.
Caregiver services in your community – Call your local senior center, senior services organization, county information and referral service, university gerontology department, family service, or hospital social work unit for contact suggestions. In the U.S. call your local Area Agency on Aging.
Caregiver support for veterans – If your care recipient is a veteran in the U.S., home health care coverage, financial support, nursing home care, and adult day care benefits may be available. Some Veterans Administration programs are free, while others require co-payments, depending upon the veteran’s status, income, and other criteria.
Your family member’s affiliations – Fraternal organizations such as the Elks, Eagles, or Moose lodges may offer some assistance if your family member is a longtime dues-paying member. This help may take the form of phone check-ins, home visits, or transportation.
Community transportation services – Many community transportation services are free for your care recipient, while others may have a nominal fee or ask for a donation. In the U.S., your local Area Agency on Aging can help you locate transportation to and from adult day care, senior centers, shopping malls, and doctor’s appointments.
Telephone check-ins – Telephone reassurance provides prescheduled calls to homebound older adults to reduce their isolation and monitor their well-being. Check with local religious groups, senior centers, and other public or nonprofit organizations.
Adult day care – If your loved one is well enough, consider the possibility of adult day care. An adult day care center can provide you with needed breaks during the day or week, and your loved one with some valuable diversions and activities.