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Blog Feature

By: Marissa Salvesen on May 8th, 2015

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Do You Make These Simple Mistakes While Caring for an Aging Loved One?

assisted living | caregiver tips | Aging & Caregiving

shutterstock_11366614There’s no foolproof formula for optimal caregiving. Rather, it’s a learn-as-you go experience.However, many caregivers do stumble at similar points along the way. 

Take a moment to consider these five common caregiving mistakes, along with steps you can take to fix them.

1. Ignoring the Signs

Caregiving is a journey with no firm timeline or destination. Many caregivers jump in too soon without a “big picture” understanding of the long-term implications. Others wait too long, which can compromise the health and wellbeing of their loved ones.

A few questions can help you evaluate whether it's the right time for caregiving. Is your loved one eating well and attending to basic hygiene tasks? Is he taking his medication, and keeping up with domestic and financial responsibilities? Is mobility an issue? All of these factors play into determining whether your loved one is still able to live independently.

2. Restricting Independence

Just because your aging loved one needs more help doesn’t mean he is no longer capable of attending to certain tasks. In addition to assessing your loved one’s specific needs and restrictions, don't forget to assess his capabilities. By encouraging your loved one to do things for himself whenever possible, you’re helping to foster a sense of self-worth and purpose.

Your loved one may or may not be aware of his limitations, but too many “nudges” and “instructions” too often can make him feel like he is losing a sense of  independence. Listen, ask questions and explain your reasons gently to help avoid an argument. Before taking things into your own hands, be sensitive to your loved one and consider talking to a physician about services that can support independence, dignity, and choice.

3. Not Asking For Help

Everyone needs help at some point or another, but sometimes it can be hardest to ask for it when you need it most. Accept the fact that some friends or family members will (hopefully) want to make a contribution, and take time to consider what tasks would be most helpful to hand off. Do you need help with the grocery shopping? Yardwork? Filling prescriptions? Someone to sit with your loved one while you attend an a personal appointment?

The truth is, people don't always know how to help. Identifying these areas in advance is a useful tactic. Find a few tasks that are easy to hand off and graciously offer them to anyone who would like to help, instead of trying to control everything yourself.

It’s also important to know when to let go: sometimes full-time caregiving is simply beyond your capabilities. If so, other options -- from assisted living to at-home care -- are available.

4. Forgetting About You

Caregiving is often an all-encompassing job. There probably aren’t enough hours to accomplish everything you need to do on any given day. But that doesn’t mean it’s okay to let everything else go. Taking time out for yourself -- from eating well to getting enough sleep -- is an important part of staying happy and healthy as a caregiver. Schedule this time as you would any other appointment if you find it is difficult to take a break.

5. Lack of Acceptance

Caregiving is a responsibility with many factors beyond your control. Humans are surprisingly resilient, however; whatever seems like too much today may be manageable tomorrow. Accept what is within your capabilities and let go of the rest.  Mistakes are part of the job. Trust that you’re doing your best, learn from your mistakes, and move on. Take one day at a time and don’t look too far ahead. Every day is a new opportunity and you ARE making a difference for your loved one, whether it feels that way or not.

Key Takeaways

  • There’s no hard and fast set of rules when it comes to caregiving, but being aware of common pitfalls can help you avoid making common mistakes.
  • Recognizing and responding to changing care needs can be difficult, but understanding certain common factors can help you make the most informed decision.
  • When people ask how to help, be prepared with a tangible list of needs.
  • While many caregivers neglect their own personal health because of time constraints, this can have dire consequences on your mental and physical health.
  • Don't expect too much: acknowledge your boundaries and accept that you're doing your best.

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About Marissa Salvesen

My journey into the world of senior living began when I started working for United Methodist Homes in 2010. Starting as an Activities Director at one of our-winning assisted and independent living communities and then transitioning to Marketing and Promotions Manager for UMH, I now work as the Manager of Mission Development, fostering the Mission and Values of our organization. I love sharing stories about the many ways we build meaningful relationships and enrich the lives of those we serve, and am proud to be part of building UMH’s 140-year legacy of caring. Wondering what makes our communities such special places to live and work? Connect with me and find out!

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