If you answer yes to any of the questions, congratulations … YOU are a Caregiver!
Many people who take care of a loved one don’t necessarily think of themselves as caregivers. They are just mothers, fathers, wives, husbands, daughters, sons, sisters, brothers, neighbors, and friends who are doing what needs to be done. However, research has shown that people who self-identify as caregivers are more likely to seek support. And that is important, because research has also shown that far too often the caregiver will suffer an adverse health event and end up in potentially worse shape than the person they are caring for. So now instead of one person needing care, you have two.
Caregiver Self-Assessment Questionnaire
Not sure how caregiving has affected you? Take this caregiver assessment and see how you’re doing. You may be surprised to learn that this is harder on your physical and emotional well-being than you thought.
Preventing Caregiver Burnout
We are so often focused on providing care for our loved ones that we neglect our own health. Things we used to enjoy become a distant memory, until one day, we hardly remember that we used to like to fish, golf, or garden. We’re so focused on caring for another that we forget to make time for ourselves, or even worse, we feel guilty for going with a friend to the movies, or spending the weekend with our grandkids. Even something as simple as reading a book becomes a luxury.
How do you prevent caregiver burnout?
As the old adage goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Caregiving is no exception. It is important to have a system in place as early on in your caregiving journey as possible. Seeking respite in the beginning may help prevent future illnesses, exhaustion, and depression. Many caregivers wait until a crisis occurs before seeking respite because they don’t want to burden their loved ones, or they don’t yet feel like they need it. But seeking and accepting respite early on cannot only help you, it can help your loved one adjust to the idea of spending time with different people. And then if you find yourself needing more respite, your loved one will feel more comfortable spending longer stretches of time with a respite provider.
Idaho Medicaid will pay certain types of caregivers. To find out if your situation qualifies, please contact the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare's Benefits Customer Service Center at 1-877-456-1233. If your loved one qualifies for assistance, they may be eligible for an array of services. Depending on your relation to your loved one, Medicaid may be able to compensate you for the care you provide.
One option to receive payment is to become a Certified Family Home (CFH) provider. Certification as a CFH provider is a prerequisite to be a paid caregiver when you are also providing housing to your loved one. Visit the CFH program's website for more information, including contracts.
Another method is to become employed by a Personal Care Service (PCS) near where your loved one lives and become assigned to your loved one as an employee of the agency. Your loved one can pay the agency fees and you would be paid as an employee. This is the appropriate option when you are not providing housing to your loved one, but will be providing hourly care in your loved one's home. For Medicaid participants, Idaho Medicaid pays the PCS agency for the participant's care and the agency pays you as it's employee. You may ask your regional Medicaid office for a list of PCS agencies in your area. It is possible to work short-term through a PCS agency while in the process of obtaining your CFH certificate
Choosing a respite provider can be a daunting task. Should you call an agency? Or ask your cousin Martha? Either way, remember that you have the right to interview the person who will be spending time with your loved one. If you don’t feel comfortable leaving, you’re not going to feel well rested when you come home. Before you choose a respite provider, here are a few tips to make sure you’ve got the right person for you and your loved one.
Remember that it is your right as a caregiver to conduct an interview with potential respite providers, as well as a background check. There are many levels of background checks, from simple name-based computer checks to fingerprinting to National Sex Offender Registry checks. With the various levels of background checks comes a variety of fees. A good place to start is the Idaho Criminal History Unit housed on the Department of Health and Welfare website. You may also want to conduct a background check through the Bureau of Criminal Identification which is housed at the Idaho State Police Office.
When presented with the opportunity to take a break, many caregivers say they don’t know what to do with their little pocket of time. Many caregivers have been caring for their loved one for so long that they have forgotten what they enjoy doing. Once upon a time, didn’t you love to play tennis? Weren’t you a bowler, reader, writer, skier, baker, seamstress? Didn’t you play cards with your friends on Fridays, or meet for coffee on Tuesdays?
Sometimes caregivers want to get out of the house, but other times they’d just like to have some quiet time at home alone. Simple things like relaxing in a hot bath, reading a book, or gardening have become the luxuries of long ago.
Don’t worry if you’re not sure what you will do with a few hours to yourself. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
Try to avoid taking respite in chunks of less than 4 hours. Although that may not always be possible, if you feel like you have to rush home from the grocery store because you could only get away for an hour, you’re not really get the break you need – and deserve.
Plan ahead. Research shows that those who plan ahead report much more satisfaction with their respite time than those who do not. Choosing not to plan ahead can leave you feeling like you’ve wasted too much time watching TV or getting sidetracked by household chores.
Make sure you schedule time to do something you actually enjoy. Running errands without your loved one might feel like a bit of a break, but you’re probably not going to feel rested when you’re through. So be sure to build in some time to do something that you like, even if it seems frivolous.
Start early. Many people wait to seek out respite until they are at their wit’s end. But lining up a respite provider and taking a weekly break, even though you feel like you’ve got everything under control can prevent serious caregiver fatigue. And like many people, you may not even realize how stressed out you are until it’s too late.
Feeling guilty for leaving your loved one?
Research shows that when you take good care of yourself, you take better care of those you are providing care for. Having regular breaks allows you to rest, recharge, and return to your caregiving responsibilities with renewed vigor.
But nobody can take care of him like I can.
You’re right. Nobody is going to do it exactly like you do. You know you’re loved one better than anyone, and you’ve likely been doing this a long time. But it’s okay if it’s different. You may even find that your loved one enjoys spending time with a new person. Do your homework and find the best respite provider you can. Ask questions until you feel confident that you’ve found the right person, and then take the leap of faith and take a break. It’s good for you and good for your loved one.
Want to learn more?
California State University San Bernardino and the University of Utah have collaborated to create Time for Living and Caring: Making Respite Services Work for You. Professors of Gerontology, Sociology, Health Science, and Social Work offer a scholarly approach to the importance of respite for caregivers.
Watching someone we care about experience a challenging situation, such as caregiving, can leave us feeling anxious and powerless. Even though you don’t have all of the answers, or the ability to change the situation, there are a few things you can do to help.
The Idaho Caregiver Alliance is a coalition of individuals and organizations focused on expanding opportunities for respite across the lifespan. The Idaho Caregiver Alliance was established in 2012 with funding from the National Lifespan Respite grant.
Whether you’re caring for a young child with disabilities, an adult with a serious illness, or a senior with memory loss, the Idaho Caregiver Alliance wants to make sure you have the support you need to provide great care for your loved one.
Having a list of detailed instructions for your respite provider is especially important when working with new providers, but can also come in handy for even someone who knows you and your loved one well. Having a document on hand that lists all pertinent details can alleviate confusion during an emergency and help de-escalate agitation.
Consider some of the following:
Plan time for debriefing after you return home. Ask open-ended questions about how their time was spent together and what, if any, issues arose.
Caregiver burnout is the inability to provide care due to overwhelming stress, anxiety, depression, or physical exhaustion caused by care giving.
We’ve all had the feeling of being at the end of our rope. We may find ourselves short-tempered, unable to concentrate, or lacking the energy to get out of bed. We may find ourselves crying at the drop of a hat, or feeling emotionally numb and apathetic. Although caregiver burnout may be expressed in a myriad of ways, it can be dangerous to both the caregiver AND the care receiver.
Caregivers who are experiencing caregiver burnout may develop heart problems, including high-blood pressure and heart disease. They may suffer from depression, which left unchecked may be debilitating. Caregivers may become suicidal or have thoughts of harming their loved one.
When caregivers are experiencing burnout, they are no longer able to provide the level of care they are accustomed to. Some of the signs of caregiver burnout are:
Caregiver burnout can happen to anyone, even the most level-headed and experienced caregivers. If you’re experiencing caregiver burnout, remember that you’re not alone and that it is okay to ask for help. In fact, asking for help is a sign of strength! Here’s a list of things you can do to help alleviate caregiver burnout:
Barriers to Seeking and Accepting Respite
Many caregivers resist the idea of taking a break. Although it may be apparent to friends and family that the caregiver needs a break, it is often difficult for caregivers to ask for help. Some of the barriers to accessing respite include:
The Veterans Administration (VA) offers caregiver respite and other supports for family members caring for a veteran. The level of support varies depending on when, where, and how the veteran served. For instance, those caring for a veteran of post 9-11 (September 11, 2001) service qualify for different supports than those caring for veterans of previous wars. To determine the level of support for which you qualify, contact the Idaho Division of Veteran Services at 208-780-1300 or visit their website. In addition to inquiring about respite, be sure to ask about the VA’s online Caregiver workshop series.
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