Being a family caregiver can feel kind of like being a frog in a pot.
Urban legend suggests that if a frog is suddenly put into a pot of boiling water, it will jump out and save itself from impending death. But, if you put the frog in a pot of tepid water and slowly bring it to a boil, it will not perceive the danger and will slowly be cooked to death. Being a family caregiver can feel kind of like being a frog in a pot.
Caregiving responsibilities tend to creep up on you over time. Simple acts of loving care for a frail or elderly loved one can grow into ongoing support activities that add significant stress and worry to your life. Family caregiving often starts simply and easily with a weekly visit and dinner out to spend some time together and make sure your loved one’s needs are being met. But, over time, as you identify unmet needs, you begin to provide more help and take on more responsibility. Expanded family caregiving responsibilities often grow to include grocery shopping, meal prep, bill paying, lawncare, household maintenance, medication management, and accompanying loved ones to medical appointments.
Adding these additional responsibilities to your plate is like turning up the heat under your pot of water. Before you know it, you find yourself managing two households, dealing with a significantly higher level of stress and worry, and feeling guilty when you can’t get it all done. And, you probably don’t even recognize just how hot your water has gotten!
So, fellow-frogs, I offer 7 suggestions to lower the temperature of the water in your pot:
- Test the temperature: Honestly assess the current state of your caregiving responsibilities to understand the impact they are having on you and your family.
- Ask family and friends to help: Find care partners to assist with the increased caregiving responsibilities. Many hands make light work!
- Organize and schedule your caregiving activities: Develop a plan and communicate it with your loved one and care partners. This will help manage expectations and will allow you all to be most effective and efficient in providing care.
- Utilize digital solutions and services: It is now possible to order groceries online, arrange for prescription delivery, bank electronically, attend routine medical appointments virtually, and much more. Take the time to learn how to use these new services and solutions.
- Take advantage of community resources: Contact community organizations in your area (like your Area Agency on Aging) to identify support programs and services that are available to your loved one. Common offerings include home delivered meals, homemaker services, and transportation to medical appointments.
- Plan for future needs: Make home modifications to increase your loved one’s safety. Add remote monitoring capabilities to help you identify needs and better manage care from a distance.
- Take care of yourself: Regularly assess the impact that caregiving is having on you. Make sure you are attending to your own medical and preventive care needs. And, ask for help or respite care when you need it.
Better managing your everyday caregiving responsibilities will help you tolerate the personal toll of additional caregiving responsibilities or an unexpected caregiving crisis.
Having just managed through another emergency medical situation with my own father-in-law, we have already identified some additional steps we can take now to keep his care manageable for the family care team. Every additional step we take will help us keep the temperature in our pot as low as possible. From one frog to another… RIBBIT! (That is frog for good luck!)
Darra Wray is a Care Consultant and Certified Senior Advisor with My Care Companions in Boise, Idaho, a company she founded to streamline and simplify the administrative side of family caregiving. You can learn more about My Care Companions and the My Data Diary+ family information management software tool at www.mycarecompanions.com.