Being a caregiver can be a full-time job. It's hard enough to find a home care routine that works for you and your loved one, deal with the day-to-day obstacles of caregiving, and also have time for yourself.
An emergency, or unexpected hurdle, can be debilitating. Emergencies like power outages, natural disasters, or unexpected health scares can throw you for a loop if you're not prepared. Here are some helpful tips on staying prepared.
Home safety: Many accidents involving elderly loved ones are easily avoided. Making a few modifications to the home so that it's completely handicap-accessible goes a long way toward preventing falls and other accidents. In addition to widening doorways and modifying countertop heights to make them wheelchair accessible, you might also install raised toilet seats and grab bars in the bathroom, and better lighting around stairs.
Stay packed and ready: When you need to get your loved one to a hospital immediately, the preparation process can be disorienting. You don't want to be packing a hospital bag in the midst of an emergency, so have a bag ready at all times. Think about what you'll need for an overnight stay, what your loved one might want, and make sure it's packed and ready to go. You'll also want to make sure you have easy access to medical records, and any documents or information the hospital might need.
Train yourself: Not all emergencies require hospital care. You will likely be able to handle most minor medical issues yourself, without paying a hefty hospital bill. Keep a first aid kit ready at all times, and make sure you know how to use it. You can also get trained in CPR, which can help give you peace of mind in the event of a serious emergency.
Don't be afraid to ask for help: You can't look after your loved one in an emergency if you don't take care of yourself first. Many caregivers get so wrapped up in their elderly home care duties that they forget to look after their own health and wellbeing. Caregiving might be your responsibility, but that doesn't mean you have to bear the whole burden alone, all the time.
If you need to step out for a few hours, don't be afraid to ask a friend or neighbor to watch your loved one. Trying to do too much is exhausting, and will ultimately make you a less effective caregiver.
Stay connected: It can be easy for caregivers to neglect their friends because they feel guilty about leaving their loved one. It's important not to isolate yourself. Stay connected to your social circle, and make a point of going out at least one night a week for something fun. Having an active social life outside caregiving can make your home care responsibilities more manageable.
Maintain your health: Making sure your loved one is safe and healthy doesn't mean you have to sacrifice your own wellbeing. Whether it's going to the gym a few times per week, eating a balanced diet, exercising at home, or going for a run, setting personal health goals is great for stress-relief, and your body will thank you for it.
Jennifer Redmond is the family care coordinator for Senior Helpers of Hilton Head Island. firstname.lastname@example.org.