SO many things about caregiving seem very straightforward and routine. How difficult can it be, right? Nothing can be further from the truth. It’s not always as easy as it seems, especially when each case is different from another.
You don’t become a caregiver only for someone who is old and ailing. That person who needs your care could be your spouse, sibling, child or grandchild. It could be for a physical or mental disability, or both.
In all the years that I’ve been a caregiver, I’ve been fortunate enough to always have assistance most of the time.
There were times when there was no one available to help but short bursts of doing everything solo is not always a bad thing.
It can give you moments of epiphany and humility that make you grateful for everything good that comes your way. You also get to see the plus points of things that didn’t seem too good at that time.
One thing’s for sure — doing it alone over years is certainly not for the weak. When you’re in this alone, it feels like the whole world is not in your favour.
It feels like when Murphy’s Law strikes, everything that can go wrong does, despite your thorough planning.
You’ve just got to brace yourself and take it on. It’s okay to feel sad and sorry for yourself once in a while but don’t let it get the better of you. Don’t dwell on it.
MENTAL AND PHYSICAL CHALLENGE
Caregiving is not only a physically demanding work but also mentally demanding. You have to be organised, resourceful and creative. We don’t know everything but somehow, we learn as we go along. Don’t be shy to ask questions or to ask for help.
By the end of each day, you will be exhausted. If you don’t get enough rest or your sleep is disturbed, you can, over time, get sleep-deprived which in turn can make you feel overwhelmed and depressed.
This is very common among caregivers with loved ones who have sleeping problems. The latter become “things that go bump in the night” as they wander around the house at odd hours. Many people with dementia and Alzheimer’s are like that.
Loved ones who are in constant pain won’t be able to sleep. They may keep you up with their moaning and groaning, and you will feel quite helpless that you can’t alleviate their pain.
Then there are those who decide that wearing adult diapers isn’t their thing, so they shred them to pieces and scatter them in the room like snowflakes, leaving you with some major cleaning up to do, especially if the diaper is soiled.
SOURCE FOR HELP
It is said that you should make time for yourself to do things that nurture you and things that keep you as the person that you know.
If you can’t find someone to step in for a few hours, snatching time for yourself is one of the hardest things to do, and will somehow end up quite low in your to-do list.
Therein comes the issue of getting help. If you don’t have family or friends who can step in for a few hours to give you some respite, you may need to hire a helper or caregiving aide.
Getting maids and training them for this job is complicated and expensive.
The alternative to this is to turn to local nursing agencies. Unfortunately, they prefer to sign on for long-term agreements and have their shifts to run for 12 hours a day, if not the full 24 hours.
You will be so lucky to get aid for anything less than a six-hour stretch. Getting outside help with these conditions can make hiring such assistance expensive and harder to arrange.
When you source for help, you’d also have to ask them if they are willing to help with some simple cooking and doing the laundry of the person they are caring for.
It won’t be fair to ask them to do your household chores but it is reasonable to ask them to help you clean up after the person they are caring for. You’d have to spell out what their duties and what your expectations are.
If you’re thrown into the role of a caregiver quite suddenly and unexpectedly, you’d need to learn some things quite quickly.
The best people to learn from in caring for bedridden people would be from nurses and nursing aides. They can show you how to change bed sheets while the person is still in bed, how to clean and change the person when they have soiled their diapers, and many other tips like giving oral medications.
Some of them are kind enough to give you a crash course on how you can care for your loved ones at home the way they would.
These will be things we’d have never thought of until it is shown to us how it should all be done, efficiently and safely.