November is National Caregivers Month

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By Kathy Ferguson, RN, Parish Nurse

I lift my eyes to the hills – where does my help come from?  My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. Psalm 121:1-2

According to the 2015 “Caregiving in the U.S.” report from AARP Public Policy Institute and the National Alliance for Caregiving, an estimated 34.2 million Americans provided unpaid care to an adult age 50 or older in 2014. Until you’ve done it, you do not realize what it means to be a caregiver to a friend or family member who is experiencing health problems. Is it rewarding? Yes! Is it challenging? Yes! Is it isolating? Yes! Is it exhausting? Yes! Is it something that you will never regret doing? Yes! I have experienced this in my own family—my mother cared for my father who had Parkinson’s disease and I cared for my mother after she had a stroke. There is a lot of information out there about caregiving; you could literally write a book about it—and many people have. Check out Bethel’s library for several books on caregiving. This month’s article includes some basics about caregiving with the primary focus being providing care for an older adult as well as local and national resources.
A caregiver may do any, or all, of the following:

Help with housekeeping duties—buy groceries, cook, clean house, do laundry
Help with basic daily needs—help to get the care receiver dressed, take a shower, take medicine
Transfer loved one out of bed/chair, help with physical therapy,
Perform necessary medical treatments—injections, feeding tubes, wound care, monitor medications
Arrange medical appointments, provide transportation to the doctor, attend appointments
Coordinate care—talk with doctors, nurses, care managers, and others
Handle crises
Handle finances and other legal matters
Be a companion
And more!

Of course, in addition to these responsibilities, a caregiver may also have their own family to care for, a career, their own health concerns, and financial worries. It is no wonder that individuals may experience caregiver burnout or depression if they are not able to take a break from caregiving. It is important that the caregiver cares for himself or herself!
If you are a caregiver, consider these suggestions about caring for yourself and thriving as a caregiver. One size does not fit all, so find what may work best for you.

Recognize your signs of stress.
Identify unrealistic expectations.
Ask for specific help. Don’t wait until you reach “the end of your rope”. Most people do not know what help you need.
Eat properly. When providing meals for someone else, you may forget to eat. Care for yourself by making sure you have quick and healthy snacks available.
Get enough sleep. This means you may need someone to sit with your loved one so that you can take an afternoon nap.
Attend to your own health care needs.
Exercise regularly.
Use music to de-stress and relax. I like listening to classical music or jazz to reduce stress. For you it may be heavy metal or country.
Surround yourself with humor.
Share your feelings. Talk to a counselor, a pastor, or the parish nurse. Join a caregiver support group.
Ask people to pray for you and with you.
Be creative. Draw, paint, write, color, cook, decorate—whatever appeals to you.
Find respite care—a family member, a friend, an outside agency may be able to help.
Give yourself credit for doing the best you can in one of the toughest jobs there is!

What local and national resources are available for caregivers?

Powerful Tools for Caregivers is a FREE workshop for family caregivers of older adults provided by Elder Network. This 6-week workshop will help you develop a wealth of self-care tools to reduce stress, change negative self-talk, communicate more effectively, recognize the messages in emotions and make tough caregiving decisions. 2020 classes have not been scheduled yet.
Respite Care In-Home provides relief for the caregiver to complete out of home duties and non-medical tasks, confident that their loved one is with a competent respite caregiver. Contact Elder Network at 507-285-5272 for more information or to set up this service.
Southeast Minnesota Area Agency on Aging keeps a list of resources for caregivers including adult day services, caregiver support, licensed home care services, and others.
Senior LinkAge Line® (1-800-333-2433) specialists can provide guidance on living arrangements, financial concerns, Medicare, insurance, caregiver support groups.
Family Service Rochester (507-287-2010) provides resources such as chore services, Meals on Wheels, Right at Home Solutions.
Care Partner Support Groups 1st Tuesday of the month from 1:30 – 2:30 p.m. and 3rd Wednesdays of the month, 10:00 – 11:00 a.m. Elder Network Rochester (1130 1/2 7th St NW, Suite 205, Rochester MN 55901)
Alzheimers Association and Alzheimer’s Foundation of America  Resources for caregivers.
Caregiver’s Home Companion newsletter
AARP Caregiving Resource Center One-stop shop for tips, tools, and resources to use while caring for a loved one.
Caregiver Action Network (CAN) CAN is a non-profit organization providing education, peer support, and resources to family caregivers across the country free of charge.

Please feel free to contact me, Kathy Ferguson, Parish Nurse, for any questions or guidance about caregiving: or through the church office 288-6430.