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Senior Home Care

Opinion

5 ways to regain your energy after caregiver burnout

· Caregivers, Opinion · No Comments

As a caregiver of an aging loved one your days are long and filled with responsibilities. Taking care of yourself is at the end of the list – and it stays there. You may feel run down, lethargic and like you are burning the candle at both ends. These are some of the symptoms caregiver stress and burnout and you should pay close attention to them. If you fall into full-fledged burnout it will significantly impact your ability to care for your loved one.

46% of caregivers suffer from depression, just one of the signs of caregiver burnout. Others include:

  • You have much less energy than you once had
  • You are constantly sick and rundown
  • You are constantly exhausted even though you sleep at night
  • You neglect your own needs because you’re too busy or you don’t care anymore
  • Caregiving is a source of anxiety and gives you little satisfaction
  • You’re increasingly impatient and irritable with the person you’re caring for
  • You feel helpless and hopeless.

There are ways to address these feelings and regain your energy with simple, common sense strategies. If you are suffering from burnout, some of these suggestions may seem impossible to carry out. You really have no choice; to ignore burnout is to risk your ability to care for your loved one.

1. See a doctor:

Make a doctor’s appointment with your primary care physician. There may be underlying causes for your fatigue and malaise like high or low blood pressure or high or low blood sugar. Your doctor can help you get back on track to good health.

2. Exercise a little every day:

You don’t have to go to the gym. Walk around the yard. Jog up and down the driveway. Put on some music and dance inside the house. Moving will increase the amount of oxygen in your heart, lungs and brain and will help you to feel better immediately. When seniors exercise regularly and work fitness into their daily routines, it will boost their energy levels and help fight fatigue.

3. Learn to meditate:

This doesn’t mean that you have to go to a mountain top retreat! It means that you find a quiet spot every day for 5 or 10 minutes of quiet reflection and deep breathing. When your loved one takes a nap, sit in a chair and practice deep breathing for relaxation. Find a beginner’s Yoga practice on DVD, online or through a television service. Yoga will relax your muscles, your mind and improve your energy levels.

4. Eat well for more energy:

Feed your body with healthy food that will fuel your energy. Fresh fruit, vegetables, whole grains, beans, lean protein, and healthy fats such as nuts and olive oil will give you steady energy.

5. Get a good night’s sleep:

Using the hours when you should be sleeping for other tasks will actually give you diminishing returns. You need 8 hours of sleep a night. When you get less, your mood, energy, productivity, and ability to handle stress will suffer.

Caregivers spend most of their time caring for our loved ones, subsequently creating an opening for stress, fatigue, and breakdowns. Preventing caregiver burnout can’t be done with tact and preparation; additionally, Home Care Assistance also offers respite care to support and mitigate this unfortunate phenomenon.

How to build a long distance care team

· Opinion, Stories · No Comments

We live in a mobile society and that means that adult children are not always going to live in close proximity to aging parents. That makes it difficult to make sure their daily needs are addressed, especially if illness or chronic disease strikes. It is possible to put together a long distance care team that will provide for your loved one and give you some peace of mind. Here are some tips on how to put together a reliable team that will serve the best interests of the senior you love.

1. Ask the senior how you can be most helpful
  • What do they need daily?
  • What tasks are difficult for them?
  • Do they have regular weekly or monthly appointments – hair, physician etc. that they need transportation to and from?
2. Talk to the senior’s physician
  • If the senior is willing to give you written permission, or you are the health care proxy, ask the physician to update you about the senior’s health. You can also discuss this with your loved one, but often seniors will hide information about their health condition for fear of losing their independence. You need to know exactly what the health impairments are in order to address them appropriately.
  • If you do not have permission or are not the health care proxy the physician cannot, by law, release private medical information to you. However, he or she may be willing to suggest the types of support that think will be most helpful.
3. Talk to friends, family members, neighbors of your loved one
  • Can a schedule of support and help be created?
  • Can a neighbor’s child take out the garbage or walk your loved one’s dog?
  • Can a sibling who lives close by take your loved one grocery shopping?
  • Can neighbors or family members check in the senior regularly, especially during extreme hot and cold weather?
  • Make sure everyone has all your phone numbers, your e-mail and other contact information.
4. Rely on local resources

There are many organizations that provide support for seniors. You can find the ones in your loved one’s area by checking these sources of information:

  • Eldercare Locator, 1-800-677-1116 (toll-free)
  • National Institute on Aging website
  • Family Care Navigator
  • Your state government’s website, search for “elder care”, “senior care”, or “INSERT STATE NAME Executive Office of Elder Affairs.”

Home Care agencies can also be a great resource to rely on. Certified, professional home caregivers can take care of your loved one and keep you updated on their condition.

5. Keep detailed records
  • Create a 3-ring binder in which you can keep notes, medical records, insurance information, calendars and even printed copies of emails. This will be a great help to you as the care of your loved one becomes more complex
  • Include contact information for all physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, case managers and specialists, like physical therapists
  • Make copies for all those involved in the support and care of your loved one and keep the records updated

The National Institute for Aging is a great resource for information on long-distance caregiving. They have two downloadable publications:

  • Long-Distance Caregiving: Twenty Questions and Answers
  • Long-Distance Caregiving—A Family Affair

The NIH also has a webpage dedicated to caregiving. It is a rich source of information that lists numerous books, fact sheets and information pages on a wide range of issues involved in caregiving. Last week, we published a piece on how to manage the Emotional impact of Long-Distance Care – an aspect of caring for your loved one that you don’t want to miss.

Life has taught alli espinosa how to care

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Allison Espinosa was the first Care Pro we hired in our Dallas office. Once you meet her, you’ll know why. It’s not just her 13 years of professional caregiving experience, it’s the way she cares that makes her special. Since everyone who meets Allison becomes a friend, she’s Alli to us—and to all her Nano clients. We’re so happy she’s on our Care Team.

1. Is there anything about your family or background that makes you especially passionate about caring for others?

Absolutely. My younger sister had her first surgery when she was minutes old—she’s had 69 so far. When I was little, I thought all families spent weeks in the hospital. I was always around doctors, nurses, and patients. That was my normal. My great grandmother, who had Alzheimer’s, moved in with my family. Keeping her company was my job. I was so excited when she taught me how to peel potatoes. To this day every time I hold a potato, a Great-grandma smile comes through. My parents were Nano with me when she had to go to a home. Grandma is sick, and we can’t take care of her anymore, they said. I knew it was time. Even at 6 years old.

2. How did you get into being a caregiver?

When I went into labor prematurely, my labor and delivery nurse Rachel, had the most incredible amount of patience and took such amazing good care of me. She was also pregnant and due the same time as me. My angel daughter didn’t survive, but sometimes I think the reason my baby was with me at all was to show me my direction in life—to be there and care for others as Rachel had for me. Rachel had her baby, and we’re still friends over a decade later. I guess I had two great influences guiding my fate. Maybe losing my baby was in some ways meant to teach me empathy and direct me to help people.

3. Why did you choose Nano?

I saw the app and I got excited instantly. I had been working in a lot of facilities, but there were a lot of restrictions at nursing facilities. You can’t really enjoy being with people. It’s too hectic and too many people yelling for you. I decided I wanted to get back into home care and I met with Kathryn who runs the Dallas office. At other jobs, it was always we need bodies to fill spots. She wasn’t looking for people to fill spots—she was looking for people who love to care for others.

4. What do you love most about being a professional caregiver?

Sounds cliché, but I enjoy the difference I can make in someone’s life. When families become caregivers they stop being family members. Husbands stop being husbands, wives stop being wives. When I come in and take care of the tasks that nobody wants to do, I let the other person be a spouse or a child again. I get to give family members back to their families. That makes me feel really good.

5. What’s your greatest challenge in this work?

I take it all in stride. My experience takes over most of the time without me thinking about it. Like reflexes. The only thing that I can truly say bothers me is when someone asks a person with Alzheimer’s, Why don’t you understand? Or I just told you this an hour ago. People who aren’t empathetic to another person’s affliction is hard for me to watch.

6. What’s the secret to a great relationship between a caregiver and a client?

Complete honesty. And that builds mutual respect. Nobody wants someone in their home who is going to be fake. If a Care Pro doesn’t love what they do, the client can feel it. They want someone who can talk truthfully about what is going on and treat them like real people.

7. Will you share with us a rewarding moment you’ve had as a Care Pro?

Recently, I was working hard to get a bed-bound man clean. It took a good hour. I was really struggling and sweating, and he was uncomfortable. I was talking to him, trying to make him feel at ease, but he didn’t say a word. When I was done, he looked at me and softly said, Thank you. And I remember feeling so good about helping him. Those two words made that all worthwhile. All caregivers have little moments like that and they feed your soul.

8. What do you like to do outside of work?

Always, always, always at the gym. I run obstacle course races. Knit. Crochet. Spend time with my little girl and my friends. Sleep sometimes.

9. Name one thing about you that might make people say WOW!

Most people don’t know that I am really good with a bow and arrow. They don’t picture me toting around a compound crossbow—but I’m a pretty incredible shot. I go to the range and shoot arrow after arrow. It helps me relax and concentrate. Almost meditative.

10. What do you collect?

Easy. Coffee mugs. I love coffee mugs. When my friends travel they always bring me back one they think I might like. The only rule is you have to have actually been there, not just passing through. I have about 150 so far. Now you know my weakness. ☺

The importance of self-care for caregivers

· Opinion · No Comments

As a caregiver, you probably hear “Take care of yourself” more often than not. It can seem an impossible task. Caring for an aging loved one is an all-encompassing task on top of your other responsibilities at work and at home. If your loved one has recently been discharged from the hospital, caregiving has probably become more intense, and your exhaustion has probably deepened. Self-care is essential if you are to survive. There is a way to care for yourself in the midst of all your responsibilities and here are some realistic ways to make that happen.

1. Nap when your loved one naps.

Lock the doors and place a cot, oversized chair or bed next to them. Take a cat nap when they do. Yes, there are many other things you could be doing while they sleep. However, this is an opportunity to squeeze in time to care for yourself, and you need to make it a priority.

2. Snack when your loved one snacks.

You may be too tired to eat three big meals a day, and that can lead to snacking on High-fat, high-sugar foods. You can change that. When you make snacks for your loved one, make them as healthy as possible and make enough for yourself. Try whole grain crackers with slices of cheese and apples. Serve small cups of soup and half a sandwich. Create a colorful plate of sliced oranges and grapes. Prepare a morning snack and an afternoon snack. Pour water in the good wine glasses and add a slice of lemon. If you have to prepare snacks anyway, why not make them appetizing for you and your loved one?

3. Relax for 10 minutes.

Set the timer and sit down. You can fold the laundry or sort through the mail while you sit down with your feet up. Turn on your loved one’s favorite TV show, make a cup of your favorite tea, coffee or hot chocolate and watch it with them. If they don’t have a favorite show, then find one that you like and watch it together. Do some deep breathing exercises and do not get up until the timer goes off!

4. Breathe in fresh air.

It doesn’t matter what climate you live in; you need fresh air. Whether it is a hot, dry southern climate or a cold northern one, you need to breathe in the outdoor air at least once a day. It’s good for the lungs and the mind. If your loved one can’t go outside, stand in front of an open window. Bundle them up if the weather demands it and then let the fresh air in. Do deep breathing exercises and teach your loved one to do them with you. In a matter of minutes, you will feel refreshed.

Caregivers give their all to their loved ones – all day, every day. Caring for yourself can seem impossible unless you begin to look at it differently. Most caregivers aren’t going to ask relatives to step in so they can take a day off and even fewer are going to take the time to go to a spa. However, if you think of the small moments in the day in which you can care for yourself along with your loved one, it will seem easier to accomplish. Read more about how to take care of yourself in our blog post, “How Caregivers Can Avoid Depression.”

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