Just what exactly is a “caregiver” and how can they help an elderly loved one and your family?
These days the term caregiver is batted around, particularly as the population of this nation begins to age. There are now millions of people over 65 among us, and they’re living longer.
But how can one care for them once they can no longer care for themselves?
A caregiver is a trained professional who specifically takes care of the elderly, most often in the elderly’s home or the family’s home.
So, let’s look at when you might need a caregiver and what they can offer.
When you may need a caregiver
• For short periods of time. Or on an as-needed basis, to help maintain the senior’s independence, if an existing caregiver is on leave, someone needs help with a medical visit, or the senior’s children need to travel or are away from home. There are many reasons as you can imagine.
• For extended time periods. It could be for a few hours a day each week, or for a few weeks or more, or for care requiring recurring tasks each week or each month.
• For around-the-clock care. This is especially for seniors who are not mobile or have chronic illnesses.
What can home caregivers offer?
• Help with daily activities. An older person who could be “slowing down” and needs some support at home is the ideal candidate for a home caregiver.
The objective is to maintain independence for the senior in his or her own home environment. Being in familiar surroundings is critical for elderly happiness.
• To give an existing caregiver a break, called “respite care.” Caregiving is hard work and often emotional work.
Giving a caregiver a break is a great way to let them “recharge,” while bringing in someone for a day or two (or longer) to help out.
This could allow the caregiver to address personal issues, visit friends or family, or even have a holiday.
• Filling in after the loss of a spouse. When a spouse dies, this can be a tough time for the senior and family. He or she could be alone now and needs help around the clock, or could just feel lonely, or both.
Children perhaps are not prepared to address this situation and home caregivers can help.
• Post illness. If someone is recovering from an illness at home, it’s an excellent time to bring in a caregiver to help until they can manage on their own.
This helps to maintain their sense of independence, and get them through an important post-illness time period.
• When someone is near the end of their life. It is an important and difficult time for the loved ones of the elderly person too.
A home caregiver can help out nurses and other medical professionals who may be helping the patient at home with things like running errands, ensuring the patient is never alone and helping the family with everyday needs that they may be incapable of handling at the moment.
• If someone is facing a chronic or long-term illness. Besides handling daily activities, a caregiver can help manage the impacts of an illness such as side effects, medication compliance, help with bathing, using the toilet, and other activities that pose special challenges for patients.
A caregiver for a chronic patient can help ease their mind and ensure they are comfortable at home.
Getting a caregiver: Tough but important decision
Bringing a caregiver into your home – and indeed a stranger – is not an easy decision.
• Take your time with this decision. Discuss the options with your family members, and of course, talk to the elderly person who needs care.
• Vet caregivers carefully. Just because someone is a friend, don’t assume they know about caregiving or your family situation.
• Talk to a professional caregiving organisation. Several of these exist today – so learn more about them. Remember you don’t have to go at it alone.
There are many resources online. In fact, there are even a few Facebook groups focused on senior care and resources (and even just fun posts), including Seniors Aloud and Ageing Alone Malaysia.
This article was written by Andrew Mastrandonas, Co-founder and CEO of Pillar (www.pillarcare.com) and reviewed by Dr Lim Geng Yan (M.D). Pillar provides a range of elderly home caregiving services, sending trained and certified professional caregivers and nurses to clients’ homes. For more information please visit https://care.pillarcare.com/fmtpromo