Are you a caregiver? It seems like a simple question, but many people who provide care to a loved one, deny that they are a caregiver and thus diminish the important, challenging work they do. Here are some important points to remember whether you’re a full or part-time caregiver or are involved in arranging for care for someone who lives a distance away.
Understand what you’re dealing with
Make sure you have a thorough diagnosis for your loved ones medical or mental health issues. Discuss possible tests to clarify diagnoses with their primary physician or ask for a referral to a specialist if there is uncertainty. There are local assessment centers available to provide diagnostic evaluation for persons exhibiting memory loss that can help identify causes and treatments that may slow the progression of dementia and improve the quality of life for the individual and their family.
Educate yourself as a caregiver
Learn as much as you can about your care recipient’s health issues. To better understand and cope with the challenges ahead, it is helpful to understand what is “normal” and to be expected and what behaviors or symptoms need to be addressed by professionals. Knowing what resources are available can help to reduce the stress that often accompanies the caregiver role. Many agencies, including Acacia, offer classes and training sessions for caregivers.
Ask for Help!
A caregiver’s job is one of the most difficult in the world! Trying to do it all alone can lead to exhaustion and accompanying health problems for the caregiver as well as increasing the likelihood of your loved one needing placement in a residential care facility if you are no longer able to care for them. It is not selfish to ask for help. Ask for help with specific tasks from family, friends and community resources (see contact information below). If you haven’t yet considered adult day care or adult day health care as an option, call one of Acacia’s social workers to discuss the appropriateness of one of our programs for your loved one and arrange for a tour. The social workers also have contact numbers for centers in others parts of California and throughout the country.
Take care of yourself
See your own doctor regularly, exercise, eat properly and get the rest you need. Again, this is not selfish; a caregiver needs to take care of themselves in order to take care of their care recipient. Talking to others who are also in a caregiving role can provide needed support and stress reduction. Acacia offers several on-going monthly caregiver support groups and there are many other groups meeting throughout the county, usually free of charge.
If you or someone you know is challenged with the role of caregiver, feel free to contact one of Acacia’s trained social workers. They can provide a listening ear, referral to a helping agency or suggestions on how to handle a difficult situation. We are available Monday through Friday from 8 AM to 5 PM.
Here are some other agencies that may provide the help you need:
Caregiver Resource Center: 714-870-3530, Website: caregiveroc.org
Alzheimer’s Association: 949-955-9000 24/7, Helpline: 800-272-3900, Website: www.alz.org
American Heart Association/American Stroke Association: Website: www.StrokeAssociation.org
UCI Mind Memory Assessment Clinic: 949-824-2382, Website: www.mind.uci.edu
Jan Brooks, MSW