You may feel ill-equipped to be a caregiver, especially when you are catapulted into the job because of serious disease or disability. But, the truth is, the job of caregiving requires many talents. You cannot be expert in them all.
Even if you are a doctor, there’s plenty of work to delegate — everything from personal care, to housekeeping, cooking, shopping, lab work, nutrition, research for alternative treatments, and more.
You need not be an expert, just dedicated, willing to learn and willing to accept help. You can rise to the challenge with help from caring doctors and health-care experts, caregiver support networks, and advice from a spouse, siblings, relatives, neighbors, and friends.
You can learn and you can rely on a team of providers, seamlessly coordinating it all. You are the one who can put all the pieces together — the one who can catch busy doctor and nurses’ mistakes because you know the medical history. You’ve lived it with them!
Never underestimate your value. As an older person faces difficult challenges and death, they need an ally they can trust. Your mere presence during disappointing doctor’s visits and emotionally trying lab visits gives them comfort. Knowing you can be their mouthpiece, when they need it, gives them peace of mind.
So whatever your training, you can be a good caregiver. A good caregiver:
* Stays in the background whenever possible, letting the elderly person maintain as much control as he or she can handle. A good caregiver serves as an advocate, asserting the older person’s wishes when possible.
* Minimizes his or her position and contributions, so the elderly person does not feel belittled or needy. A good caregiver recognizes and applauds the ways the elderly person can still give to others — and helps find even more ways.
* Is flexible and is willing to set aside personal needs and schedules when necessary.
* Will speak up, stating the case for getting a cane, bringing in a home-care nurse, buying a walker or hearing aids, or whatever is required. A good caregiver will be patient and persistent, but not foolish, opting for safety first.
* Is sensitive to the elderly person’s physical and emotional needs. A good caregiver knows when not to press for a decision, when a B-12 shot is helpful to lift spirits, and when a new blouse or trip to the mall is in order.
* Makes sure the doctor’s appointments are kept, the medicine is taken, the bills are paid, etc.
* Must take complete charge of the elderly person’s care in the event of mental incapacity, anesthesia or the like. But a good caregiver must be willing to relinquish control if circumstances change.
* Makes the most of time with the older person, doing odd jobs quickly and quietly, leaving time to talk.
* Helps the older person realize he/she is not alone.