I'm one of those people who use little memory aids to recall important information that I need to use regularly. The aids help the info attach to my mind until the repeated use lodges it firmly. Things like TALLY (Time off, Ask, Leave room for caregiving, Little things mean a lot, Yes! to hope), or the 12 Keys to Healthy Caregiving are the devices I use to teach those ideas to caregivers in my workshops.
In teaching a new class Blueprint for Elder Caregiving, I've come up with Five Principles that caregivers can use when caring for elderly or frail loved ones. Call them Key Caregiver Guidelines if you will. I'm hopeful that they'll be helpful to you, regardless of the type of caregiving in which you're engaged:
Five Principles that caregivers can use when caring for elderly or frail loved ones.
1. Things will change. What was true yesterday about their well-being and abilities may not be true today. Strategy for caregiving: As you track the changes, date-to-day, try to keep in mind that a failing body does not always mean a failing mind. Base your caregiving in love, honor and respect.
2. There is no getting better. Amelioration can happen, but not cure. Incorporate new ways of living into old routines– holidays, birthdays, how to combine old traditions with new lifestyle. Talk about it! Strategy for caregiving: When possible, allow your loved one to give to you, not just be a recipient of your care.
3. Understand the losses. Being the last one of a group of family and friends is hard. Who knows your loved one from childhood, school, work days before your arrival? You also need to understand that the ability to make new friends declines. Strategy for Caregiving: Work for family connection– turn off the TV, spend time playing games, reading, singing together, go through photos and mementos. Mix the power of touch with memory.
4. Keep the big picture in focus. This is hard to do when you're tending to the day-to-day needs. Be attentive to larger, over-arching issues. Strategy for caregiving: This attentiveness is necessary in order to recognize and respond to quality-of-life questions. These may be disguised as seemingly minor medical concerns. Is it a good idea to have your elderly parent undergo surgery for eye problems or even cancer?
5. Plan to say good-bye. Have you and your loved one talked about advance directives or The Five Questions? Strategy for caregiving: Visit www.caringinfo.org for help with conversation openers and needed documents.
Joanne Reynolds is the author of Search for Light: Ten Crucial Lessons for Caregivers.