Compassion and preparation: essential tips for senior caregivers

By Jennifer Geske

Caregiving is one of the most considerate and compassionate jobs around. Caregivers take on the role of assisting another person, commonly seniors, with all types of life activities, such as personal care, household tasks, meal preparation, health care, transportation and financial and legal matters when that person is no longer able to. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 23.2% of adults ages 45 and older in Florida are caregivers to a family member or friend.

While it is a privilege to do, caregiving can have its challenges, especially at the beginning. So, what are the best ways to create a smooth path to caregiving? The Preserve, a senior living community in Fort Myers, has put together a guide to help caregivers take care of not just their seniors, but also themselves.

Work with others

Caregiving while managing your own life, job and family can be tricky. If you can, request the support of your relatives, your loved one’s neighbors and their healthier friends. Caregiving is a time-intensive responsibility, so a few extra sets of hands can make a world of difference. Even if your loved one’s neighbor can go grocery shopping for you, that hour out of their day will make a difference in the health and well-being of the older adult involved.

When necessary, never hesitate to enlist the help of health care professionals, such as your loved one’s doctor, a local senior center or an Aging and Disability Resource Center near you.

Create a plan

When first stepping into your new role as a caregiver, it can be overwhelming. From learning the senior’s medical history to making time to go on grocery store runs for them, figuring out how to best manage this new job can bring its challenges. The best way to combat these struggles is to create a plan before your caregiving role begins, which requires preparation.

“When becoming a caregiver, it’s important to ask lots of questions and go into the new journey with a positive attitude,” said Danielle Kelley, a licensed practical nurse at The Preserve. “A good caregiver is patient, compassionate, a strong communicator and asks for help when they need it.”

If you have the help of others, like family members or neighbors, divide and conquer caregiving tasks. For example, perhaps you and your spouse would oversee keeping the house tidy twice a week, your brother would handle grocery shopping and your loved one’s neighbor would be a dependable mode of transportation for appointments. Maybe you and your caregiving team would prefer to rotate responsibilities and maintain an organized schedule. Regardless of what your preferred method of organizing responsibilities is, it is important to plan that out ahead of time, rather than in the thick of caregiving.

Additionally, plan ahead in terms of scenarios, especially if you are a solo caregiver. What would you do in an emergency? How about if your loved one wants to relocate to a senior living community? Do they have preferences for the type of community they move to? Do they have a will in place? While not every little detail needs to be planned, immediate needs and the bigger picture are important to consider. It’s also crucial to involve your senior in all decisions. Allow their voice to be heard and their opinions to be considered.

Create a safe environment

As seniors age, they can experience vision problems, weakened balance and worsened hearing, Sometimes, this can be reason for accidents in the home, such as falls. AARP suggests making home modifications where necessary to ensure the safety of your loved one. From removing throw rugs to installing runway lighting in stairwells, there are several changes that can be made to protect your senior from trips and falls, including:

  • Remove throw rugs or add nonslip backings to rugs
  • Install lighting and nightlights in hallways and stairwells
  • Add a hand railing beside the toilet, in the shower and in stairwells
  • Replace door handles and cabinet/drawer handles with accessible pulls

Take care of yourself

When caring for someone you love, your own well-being sometimes ends up on the backburner. The responsibility of someone depending on you can take an emotional and physical toll on you, which is common among caregivers.

“While caregiving is rewarding, the process of caring for a loved one can bring its challenges, so it’s important to remember to care for yourself,” said Kelley. “Always ask for help if needed, take a deep breath and take it day by day.”

According to AARP, caregivers report that the most challenging part of their job is the time commitment. In 2023, 27% of caregivers spent 30 hours or more providing care to their loved one. Even though you are devoting time to somebody else, still make sure to set time aside for yourself and your family to spend time together. Also, being physically active, eating well, meditating and keeping up with your own health are great ways to encourage personal wellness while caregiving.

Most importantly, be kind to yourself. Caregiving is not an easy feat, and you deserve recognition for being selfless, empathetic and responsible.

Jennifer Geske, Assisted Living Clinical Director of The PreserveAbout the author

Jennifer Geske is the assisted living clinical director at The Preserve in Fort Myers.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *