With the start of another new year, it’s a good time to implement change. There’s often a renewed sense of purpose and productivity that comes with the change of calendars.
As a caregiver, ding some homework in the next while can really pay off; improving your well-being and that of the person you care for.
Firstly, you need to educate yourself about your relative’s medical conditions and share the information with them and family members as appropriate, to ensure you have common and thorough understanding.
Request a medication review by your relative’s physician to check for drug interactions and determine whether your relative still needs all the medications they are currently taking.
Arrange for an experienced lawyer to assist your relative in assigning powers of attorney for personal care and finances as well as preparing/updating a will if it was completed sometime ago.
If your relative can safely be left alone, but you are anxious about the prospect, supply them with a portable or cell phone so you can stay in touch. An emergency response system may also help put your mind at ease.
If your relative cannot be left alone, research respite services in your community so you can arrange breaks from caregiving. It’s a win-win situation, because your relative will benefit from the added stimulation that comes from a visiting companion or meeting new people and trying new things in a community program. In-home options include respite provided by home health care agency staff, a trained volunteer or an individual hired privately. There are also adult day programs and residential care homes that have short-stay programs.
Connect with other caregivers. Consider joining a community support group. Information on caregiver groups can be obtained from community social workers or your local community association information service. Online caregiver message board, chat rooms and email lists or discussion forums are some other alternatives.
In addition, you could join the Canadian Caregiver Coalition (1-888-866-2273 or at www.ccc-ccan.ca for information, education and support for family caregivers.