Many of us have aging or disabled parents or loved ones. How do we help them when we can’t physically be there for them? How do we ease the caregiver’s burden, if there is one? More often than not, one family member steps up to the plate and provides 24/7 care for our loved ones. This can lead to caregiver burnout when the caregiver has to carry the load by themselves in all aspects of their loved ones’ lives. They likely have to give up their own lives to take care of this person or persons. A study was done in 1999 that found that caregivers have a 63% higher mortality rate than non-caregivers. According to Stanford University, 40% of Alzheimer’s caregivers die from stress-related disorders. Many caregivers die before the person to whom they are providing care. This goes to show the toll caregiving takes on a person.
How can you help?
Start by planning a family meeting if it is a family member. Include friends if your loved one has a robust support system outside of their family. Your loved one’s friends may be able to bring meals or keep your loved one company for an hour or two while the caregiver runs errands or takes a much-needed break. Family can take turns visiting for a few days and take over the caregiving responsibilities. We take vacations from our jobs, shouldn’t caregivers? Caregiving is most certainly a job. Have an emergency plan. What should happen if the caregiver becomes injured or ill? Stay connected. A good idea is to start an email chain with everyone in the family on it. This allows all family members to monitor the situation and jump in if needed.
Helpful Purchases for Caregivers
Another option is to assist in helping purchase items that make the caregiver’s job easier. You would be surprised what you can find on Amazon that you can ship directly to the person. Is your loved one in a wheelchair? How about a fold-up ramp for high door entrances? This specific ramp is lightweight and easy to carry with you. It makes an otherwise difficult task manageable and allows your loved ones to go places they may not otherwise be able to.
There are several options for purchase that you may not realize are available. Most of our seniors don’t want to be in a hospital bed and want to keep their current furniture, but the question is how to get in it. This little Aerobic Stepper offers multiple heights. For safety purposes and comfort, you may also want to purchase a rail for your loved ones to hold as they get into bed or even to help them turn over. This particular rail has a pocket for remotes or other things your loved one may need in the middle of the night.
A lift chair is beneficial and generally expensive. Amazon has several more affordable options and even offers massage and heat. It may be helpful to have a gait belt. Gait belts allow the caregiver to safely assist in helping the person to get up or transfer to another place. It aids in keeping the caregiver from injuring their back when appropriately used. A physician can likely assist the caregiver in learning how to use this device safely and correctly. How about getting in and out of the car? Getting out of the car is generally a difficult task to assist in and awkward to maneuver. This HandyBar is a multi-tool that helps a person get in and out of the car, cut the seat-belt, and break a window, should this ever be necessary. Between this and the gait belt, you should be able to assist your loved one in and out of the car in a less stressful manner.
Utilizing Social Media for Caregivers
Another useful tool would be social media. Facebook groups provide many valuable tools to get you through this difficult time. Some offer support for caregivers, as caregiving is often a lonely job that not many understand. Some groups may provide a support system to bounce ideas regarding local resources. Many people don’t realize what options are available in their city. Someone experiencing a similar situation may have ideas that help, and you may have some that they haven’t thought of.
In the end, caregiving is a team event. No one should do it alone. There are many ways you can help in person and from a distance. There are online options to find ideas and resources you weren’t aware of. Think outside the box and get the support for your loved ones.