Home Caregiving: Is it Time to Ask for Help?

Mar 21, 2016

Home Caregiving: Is it Time to Ask for Help?

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Home caregivers often find themselves extremely busy, stressed and at times, even frustrated. The biggest responsibility a caregiver carries is knowing when they can handle something and when it’s time to ask for help.

Understanding the signs: Is it time to ask for help?

  • Dementia - Dementia is the name given to symptoms such as memory loss and impaired thinking, usually caused by aging. Many caregivers are equipped and prepared to deal with mild memory loss, but at times it may become too much for one person to handle. Depending on the severity of dementia, it may be reversible. If an individual’s dementia seems to be worsening, it’s important to seek help from a physician because it may have advanced into Alzheimer’s disease, which comes with a slew of new, difficult symptoms and complications.           
  • Alzheimer’s disease - Alzheimer’s is a specific disease and is responsible for about 60 to 70 percent of all dementia cases. Physicians can use a variety of tests to diagnose an individual with Alzheimer’s disease and make recommendations on treatment. Because this disease varies in severity, caregivers should inquire about whether or not it’s appropriate to continue home care.
  • Sundowning - Sundown Syndrome affects individuals with dementia or Alzheimer’s and causes symptoms to worsen in the late afternoon and evening. Physicians are unsure of the cause of Sundown Syndrome, but believe it may be caused by depression or boredom. Home caregivers often come across issues trying to maintain a sense of normalcy in the evenings, and things such as family dinners tend to be interrupted regularly. Caregivers should ask for help from other family members if this becomes too extreme, and always get the opinion of the individual’s physician.
  • Wandering – If a home caregiver finds that their loved one is beginning to wander, it’s time to ask for help. Confused individuals may wander out of the house and find themselves in unsafe situations, and this is terrifying for both the individual and the caregiver. Wandering may be a sign that it’s time to discuss other options with your loved one, such as being placed in a nursing home.
  • Incontinence- A home caregiver whose loved one is having difficulty accepting his or her incontinence should ask for help. Incontinence is an involuntary loss of the bladder and bowels, leading to accidents. Incontinence can lead to some embarrassing realizations for the individual, such as the need to wear adult diapers. Many individuals come to accept this, and take the necessary actions to limit accidents and prevent embarrassment. Although some individuals that are not sound of mind may not like wearing diapers, causing them to continue having embarrassing accidents. This is when it’s time to consult a physician, and discuss your options in terms of treatment or a new care arrangement.
  • Aggression - Aging can be discouraging, especially when an individual finds himself or herself forgetting things that used to be second nature, or unable to be as physical as he or she used to be. Whether it’s confusion or coping with the frustrations of aging that leads the person to become aggressive, it’s bound to happen at times. If aggressive behavior becomes frequent and severe, it’s time to ask for help. Support groups may offer tips about handling aggression in an elderly individual, and if the behavior continues to worsen, consult a physician.

In relation to aggression, if a caregiver ever feels that his or her safety is on the line, it’s time to ask for help. Whether the caregiver feels that the individual they are caring for may harm them out of confusion, or the caregiver is worried the senior may harm themselves; it’s time to consider new care and living arrangements. Discuss these issues with a physician as soon as they arise.

Asking for Help with Home Caregiving

While it’s important for the caregiver to ensure his or her loved one's health and well-being, their first priority is to their own health. After all, if caregivers don’t take care of themselves, they will not b able to care for their loved ones. Caregivers are susceptible to a profusion of health problems stemming from their position as a primary caretaker. If caregivers find that their own health is suffering at the expense of taking care of someone else’s, it’s time to ask for help. Common health issues caregivers face are emotional problems like depression and stress, and physical symptoms like weakened immune systems.

Many people view asking for help as admitting defeat, but it’s important to be open and honest about needing help, especially when it comes down to your loved one’s well-being. The first step in asking for help is realizing that it’s OK to need to help. The second step in asking for help, big or small, is being honest. Be honest with yourself, and with the people you are asking for help from, whether it’s physicians or other family members.

Don’t forget that help comes in all shapes and sizes; something as simple as asking a family member to make lunch for the loved one being cared for may help alleviate your stress, and you’ll be able to remove one thing from that day’s to-do list. Or maybe the help you need is more serious; talk to a physician that can appropriately recommend whether or not it may be time for a new living arrangement for your loved one.

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Frequently Asked Questions

My sister has been the primary caregiver for our father for the past year and has recently become apathetic. What can I do?

Apathy in one common sign of compassion fatigue and is common among those who work in the caregiving industry. While it is different than burnout, many of the signs and symptoms are similar. If you are able, try to alleviate some of your sister’s responsibilities by filling in and allowing her to practice some self-care as well. Also, do not be afraid to point her in the direction of a caregiver support group. There are many great resources available to help with compassion fatigue.

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My father has lived in the same house for over 50 years, so he's reluctant to leave. How do I talk to him about moving to a senior care community?

When people grow attached to a familiar setting, moving to a senior care community can be a difficult subject, especially when caregiving is involved. To avoid excessive stress for you and your loved one, there are ways to bring up "the move" to elderly parents. Remember to remain honest and address any concerns your father may have. Prepare yourself for resistance. 

Have you checked out our Is It Time to Seek Senior Care Checklist? This resources will help you decide if it really is the right time for your senior to move out. This may be something that you want to bring to a meeting with your senior to show them some reasons why it may not be safe for them to live independently anymore.

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