The term “caregiver” refers to anyone providing care for someone who needs extra help. Often this involves the elderly who are dealing with memory loss or other challenges resulting from the aging process. A caregiver may be a hired, in-home or respite nurse, but often it is a family member. So, what does it mean to be a caregiver? How can we become the best caregivers for our loved ones?
Caregivers often believe their primary mission is to make day-to-day life easier, safer and more comfortable for a loved one. In fact, caregivers often describe their role in terms of the tasks they do, including escorting to medical visits, shopping, doing housework, personal care (such as bathing), managing medications, cooking, managing finances, and a host of other activities that entail ‘doing’ something. Some caregivers feel seduced into believing ‘more is better’ or ‘faster is better.’ In other words, they rush to do everything for a loved one, even if he or she is able and may prefer to accomplish some tasks on their own. Remember, we all enjoy maintaining a level of independence, so whenever possible allow loved ones to perform daily tasks, on their terms and in their time frame.
In addition, while completing tasks is necessary and valuable, it is actually not the greatest gift a caregiver can make to a loved one. Instead, your ‘presence’ is the greatest gift. Many people can be physically present and perform the tasks mentioned earlier; however, only certain caregivers can provide the love and trust needed during these times. Being present for your loved one does not require you to do or to fix something. It means being there and listening, providing emotional openness and support, and realizing that a difficult time of life opens opportunities for growth and blessing.
Caregivers need to learn to understand their emotional and physical limits when it comes to tasks and focus on quality time and presence. Some tasks are relatively simple and a joy while others can become a burden. Being a good caregiver involves knowing when to seek resources and allowing others to help.
CarePartners is a nonprofit, volunteer-led organization that provides education, support and resources to caregivers in the greater Houston and Waco areas. We provide no-cost programs to family caregivers and to those living with memory loss and other challenges of aging. To learn more about our programs call us at 713-682-5995, or complete our online contact form. Please also ‘like’ us on Facebook.