Family caregiver tip: 5 Steps to Help Your Loved One’s Doctor Lower Your Holiday Stress - Part 1

The holidays can be a difficult time for family caregivers.

When you are the primary caregiver for a loved one, it can be easy to forget about taking care of yourself.

This holiday season, make sure you take the time to practice self-care and reduce your stress levels.

Note: If you are already experiencing these problems, you need help NOW.

  1. Do I feel like I am constantly juggling competing demands and never have enough time for myself?
  2. Do I feel guilty when I take time for myself or do things that are not related to caregiving?
  3. Am I having difficulty sleeping or eating properly because I am so stressed?
  4. Do I find myself snapping at my loved ones or feeling angry and resentful more often than not?
  5. Do I feel like I am in over my head and not sure how to handle everything?

Taking care of yourself is not selfish—it is essential to being able to care for your loved one in a sustainable way.

 

Plan for success

The holidays merely intensify the challenges you already face. So, the tip I offer is actually a plan that will benefit you beyond the holidays and into the new year.

I want to set you up for success. You may already be on top of things. If that is the case, this tip should reassure you, or even prompt you to make your plans even better.

If this tip is new to you, it should offer you a way to think through how you can structure a plan that not only works for you now but gives you a framework to continually improve and adapt.

There is no shame in admitting that you need assistance. In fact, asking for help is a sign of strength. If you have friends or family members who offer to help, take them up on their offer.

This plan will improve your chances of getting the help you need when you ask for it.  

 

5 steps To Help Your Loved One's Doctor Lower Your Stress 

My caregiver tip for lowering your holiday stress is a five-step strategy to help you not just survive but to thrive these holidays.

  1. Know the 5 caregiver roles. 
  2. Identify which role challenges you most.
  3. Visualize your best caregiving life and what would make a good day today. 
  4. Name the barriers that keep you from having a good day. 
  5. Enlist your loved one's doctor's help to reduce your stress. 

Each of these steps requires some thought. You will accomplish more if you take a few minutes to step back, thoughtfully consider your response to each step, and write out what you come up with. I strongly recommend you keep an ongoing journal to record your responses. Repeat whenever you encounter new changes and challenges.

This is your tool. It enables you to structure your thoughts so your loved one’s doctor can act on you and your loved one’s behalf. Keep that in mind as you learn this strategy and put it into action. 

 

So I don’t go on too long, I will cover these 5 steps in 2 separate blog posts.

Part 1. In this post, Part 1, I will focus on Steps 1 and 2. Step 1 - the five caregiver roles and Step 2 - identifying which role challenges you most.

As a caregiver, you are responsible for a lot. That’s why it is important to know what roles make up your scope of responsibilities, and then to  identify which role you're struggling with most right now. That way, you can better manage your time and resources.

Part 2. In Part 2,  I will discuss Steps 3 through 5. In Step 3 you visualize your best caregiving life. This may seem like a daunting task, but it’s important to have a clear picture of what you want for yourself and your loved one.

Once you have this vision, in Step 4, you identify the barriers that stand in your way, and in Step 5 you enlist the help of your loved one’s doctor to help you overcome them.

 

Being a family caregiver, after all, is really a team responsibility.

You, the caregiver, are the leader of your loved one’s care team. That’s a big job. After all, the buck stops with you.

But what if you’re stressed, don’t know what to ask for or how to ask for it? When you are feeling overwhelmed, it can be hard to know what to do next. You feel stretched and exhausted, which make it difficult to think clearly. Remember, however, that you are not alone.

 

Your loved one’s doctor is there to help.

You shoulder the responsibility to lead, and the doctor is a key member of your loved one’s care team.

Your doctor wants your loved one to do well and will work with you to ensure you can give your best possible care. The medical professionals may suggest treatments or therapies that can help improve your loved one’s quality of life, which in turn contributes to your peace of mind.

If you are feeling overwhelmed, don’t hesitate to ask for help from your doctor or other members of your loved one’s medical care team.

 

Sounds good, but how do you do that?

Your loved one’s doctor needs you to be specific when you ask for help. The more clearly you explain your loved one’s issue, what result you are hoping for, and solutions you are considering, the more effectively your loved one’s doctor can work with you.

Note: It is absolutely important that you include your own caregiver challenges when you explain your loved one’s medical concerns.

Any problem you face as a caregiver that threatens your wellbeing is also a problem for your loved one, and the medical team needs to be informed. Advocating for yourself is an essential but often overlooked component of advocating for your loved one.  

Think of it this way: when you include your own caregiver challenges with your loved one’s medical concerns, you give the doctor a more comprehensive picture which in turn leads to a better care plan. The doctor gains added assurance that the plan will be effective. And you are more hopeful and motivated to continue.

Do you need help with tasks like managing medications, keeping track of symptoms, or providing emotional support? What result are you looking for that they can help you with? 

Working together with your loved one’s doctor is the best way to ensure that they receive the best possible care.  

Let’s get started!

In this first of two blog posts, Part 1, I will focus on Steps 1 and 2. Step 1 - the five caregiver roles and Step 2 - identifying which role challenges you most. 

 

  1. Step 1- Know the 5 caregiver roles.

As a family caregiver, it’s important to be aware of the different roles that make up your caregiving responsibilities.  The five caregiver roles are:

  1. Assisting with mother’s activities of daily living. 
  2. Providing Emotional and Social Support. 
  3. Performing Medical Tasks. 
  4. Managing and coordinating loved one’s care. 
  5. Making Decisions for your loved one.

 

Does this look familiar, juggling multiple roles?

I am the primary caregiver for my grandfather, who has Alzheimer’s disease. In addition to providing emotional and social support, I also assist him with his activities of daily living, manage and coordinate his care, and make decisions for him. It can be challenging wearing so many hats, but it’s important to me that he receives the best possible care.

His health conditions require a lot of attention, and I often feel like I’m constantly running around taking care of them. It’s really hard to manage my own life and responsibilities when I also have to worry about him. I feel like I’m always stressed out and drained, and it’s really hard to find time for myself.

 

  1. Step 2 - Identify which role challenges you most.  

Here’s how it might look to choose the role that is stressing you most. 

Role 1: Assisting with loved one's activities of daily living

I worry about my mother falling at night. She’s always trying to do things on her own, even though she’s not as young as she used to be. I know that it’s hard for her to get around, and I hate that she has to go through all of this by herself. But she’s a stubborn woman, and she doesn’t like to ask for help.

Last night, I heard her fall in the bathroom. I’m pretty sure she was trying to go to the toilet by herself. I raced down the stairs, and I found her on the floor. She was crying and she was in a lot of pain. I helped her up and I took her to the hospital. They said that she had broken her hip, and she was going to have to have surgery.

I feel so helpless right now. I can’t believe that this happened to my mother. I just hope that she recovers quickly and that she doesn’t have any complications from the surgery.

 

 

Role 3: Performing Medical Tasks

Grandpa is refusing to take his medication, and it’s starting to become a real problem. His health is declining, and he’s becoming more and more stubborn about taking his medication. I’ve tried reasoning with him, but it’s not working. I’m getting really frustrated because I don’t want him to get worse. I don’t know what to do.

 

Role 4: Managing and Coordinating mother’s Care

It can be hard to arrange all of my grandfather’s appointments, especially since he doesn’t always remember what day it is. Sometimes I have to call the doctor’s office several times in order to get an appointment that works for both of us. Then I have to make sure that Grandpa knows about the appointment and can get himself there on time. It’s a lot of work, but I know it’s important that he keeps his appointments so that he can continue to receive the best possible care.

 

 

In conclusion

The holiday season can be a difficult time for family caregivers. With all the added stress, it can be hard to take care of yourself and your loved one. But with the right support, you can get through it.

Your loved one’s doctor, with their medical team, is a key member of your care team. They can provide you with supplies and medications, and work with you to design a care strategy that goes a long way toward reducing your stress.

Remember Steps 1 and 2: 1. Know your 5 caregiver roles, and 2. identify the role which challenges you most right now.

 

Next time, I will cover Steps 3 through 5: Step 3 - visualize your best caregiving life and what makes a good day; Step 4 - name the barriers that stand in the way; and finally Step 5 - collaborating with your loved one’s doctor to create a plan that removes these barriers and help you give the best care possible.

If you follow these five steps, you can create a holiday season that makes a better life now and for the coming new year.  

Until next time ... 

 

Please leave a comment: Which of the five caregiving roles stresses you most this season? What does a “good day” look like for you?

 

If you enjoyed this blog post, share it with a family caregiver you know!

 

For more information: 

 What is the Responsibility of Family Caregivers? 

 

Forrest Jones MD

Take my Caregiver Quiz 

My website CaringEnd.com 

Or reach me at [email protected]  

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