Taking Care of You-Coping with Change

Just when you have settled into a routine, your caregiving situation changes.

The caregiver you hired and that your family member likes gives her notice.

Your loved one takes a fall and needs to learn how to use a walker.

The weekly lunch out at your favorite restaurant is no longer possible because your loved one finds it confusing and overwhelming.

Change in life and in caregiving is inevitable. It may be gradual or dramatic.

Coping with change is a three step process.

Recognize that a change has happened.

Feel your feelings about the change. The grief, anger or relief

Take action to reassess your situation and add resources if necessary.

Recognizing that a change has happened. Sometimes change can slip by you. Listen carefully to the impressions of family and friends who don't see your family member every day. They may see changes that have been very gradual but add up to a major change in your lifestyle and your family member's abilities. It may be time to reevaluate how you are providing care and what resources you need.

Sometimes the person you are caring for can pull it together for a short visit from family or friends. Take visitor feedback with a grain of salt if you feel your loved one has put on a show for the visitor. Your best source of feedback is someone who visits over a period of time for longer than an hour. This gives her a truer experience of what day-to-day life is like with your loved one.

Consider whether the change you are observing is the result of an undiagnosed illness or pain in your family member. Increased confusion, resisting care or not eating may signal that your family member is not feeling well.

Feel your feelings about the change. The practical elements of caregiving can overwhelm your emotions. We may feel that we have to stay strong. We may feel that crying and other ways to release emotion are a waste of time. We may fear that if we let go and express our sadness that we may not be able to regain control. The funny thing about trying to contain emotions is that they sneak out when we least expect it.

Dealing with our family member's losses forces us to pre-grieve their future losses. As caregivers we can find ourselves in an ongoing place of grieving. Grieving what has changed is natural. Instead of pushing away your feelings, seek to be present with your emotions. Speak your truth in a constructive way. Find someone to listen to you without judging.

Use a gratitude journal to focus your attention on what is good, what is working and what is beautiful or happy in your day.

Take action Your first step should be an objective review of how things have changed. If you are already working with an eldercare advisor, you can discuss how things have changed and what are the impacts on you, your family and the person you are caring for.

The changes should also be discussed with your loved one's doctor to determine if there is an underlying medical reason for the changes that can be addressed by medication or therapy.

Create a plan for coping with changes. Start by asking yourself a series of questions. Does your loved one need more support with daily activities? Does she need help at night? What services or tools can help your loved one or you function better? Does your loved one's current physical environment meet his needs?

After you have identified all the concerns, you can work with your elder advisor or local senior center to find resources to meet the needs of you and your loved one.

Here are some final thoughts about coping with times of change:

Don't reduce selfcare, increase it if at all possible.

Focus on exercise as a way to release tension, anger and grief.

Focus on support and finding a safe place to share your feelings.

Focus on reevaluating your needs and the needs of your family member.

Focus on getting the increased support or services that are needed.

Is it Time to Discuss Your Eldercare Challenges with an Expert?

Have your caregiving responsibilities left you stressed, angry or feeling guilty?

Do you suspect that your family member needs help and don't know where to start?

Whether you are an experienced caregiver verging on burnout or a new caregiver who is not sure how to help a family member, you can benefit from Eldercare Coaching.

To experience what's it's like to have an expert in your corner providing advice and resources tailored to your unique situation, click here to schedule a no cost 30 minute consultation.

Dementia Special Tips-Communicating with your Family Member

Dementia impairs communication because your family member may have problems following a conversation due to short term memory loss. He may be easily distracted by other things going on in his environment. Thoughtful, deliberate and slow-paced communications will help you successfully get your messages through to your family member.

Tips for communicating when your family member has dementia.

Make sure you have your family member's attention. Look into her eyes when you are speaking.

Keep things simple. If you are asking your family member to do a task, keep your instructions simple and offer them one at a time. Avoid using slang which can confuse her. Say "please listen to me" rather than "heads up". Keep gestures to a minimum.

Slow down. Allow extra time for your family member to process your request. It may seem that your family member did not understand when she just needs more time.

Use positive statements instead of questions. Say "it's time to eat lunch" rather than "would you like to have lunch now?"

Do your best to manage any impatience that you might feel. Your family member may have difficulty processing spoken language but she can read your body language and facial expression fluently.

If attempting to communicate is upsetting you or your family member, take a break and try again later.

Upcoming Eldercare Coach Events

September 17, 1pm
Rosener House
500 Arbor Rd.
Menlo Park, CA
Janice is presenting "Dealing with Change" at the caregiver support group.

September 24, 10:30am and 6:30pm
Sunrise of Palo Alto
2701 El Camino Real
Palo Alto, CA
Janice is presenting "Building your Care Team".

October 1, 7pm
Janice is hosting the Caring for Aging Parents Telephone Support Group
Call in number: (616) 347-8400
Pin number: 196932#

To register for any of these events, please reply to this email.