Caregivers Tips

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Can I get financial help if I am an elderly caregiver caring for an elderly spouse?

Caregivers: Elderly Caregivers

Elderly caregivers are more susceptible to stress related illnesses when caring for a family member. An elderly caregiver is also more likely to get engrossed in caring for his or her loved one that she or he does not get enough sleep or eat properly, further reducing the body's ability to fight off illness and infection.

Because an elderly person's bones may be more brittle than a younger person's bones, elderly caregivers should have help when his or her caregiving responsibilities require lifting the patient. A fall could put both people in a nursing home.

Also, caring for an elderly person can become financially overbearing, especially if the caregiver is elderly and has only social security income to support the family. There are programs that can help caregivers of the elderly and elderly caregivers:

Contact 1-800-677-1116 and ask for eldercare resources in your area. There may be payments available to caregivers under the Older Americans Act of 2006. The program is sponsored by the federal government and administered by the state. If you cannot qualify, always ask if there are other resources.

  • Visit www.benefits.org for possible benefits for elderly caregivers
  • Visit www.govbenefits.gov for possible benefits for elderly caregivers
Being able to not worry about certain finances relieves some of the stress on elderly caregivers, making the caregiver healthier, ensuring that she or he does not come down with any stress related health problems.

   
What are some of the things I should do as a caregiver?

Caregivers: A Guide for Caregivers

A caregiver plays an important role in the life of a chronically ill or terminal patient, but the caregiver must keep up his or her own health in order to be able to care properly for the patient.

  • The caregiver should make sure all emergency contact information for all of the patient's doctors is easily accessible.
  • Make sure all of the patient's medical information is easily accessible. Should there be an emergency, do not count on yourself to remember pertinent information such as medications, dosages and treatments.
  • Write down all of the medications and treatments on a schedule, so that you do not miss a dose or a treatment.
  • If the patient requires extensive nighttime care, hire a nurse or contact hospice to have someone help during the nighttime hours.
  • Take a couple of hours to yourself every day. If this means having hospice or a private nurse coming in every day, then this should be done. This will help keep the caregiver from suffering from burnout.
  • Arrange to have another family member, hospice or private nurse to spend one entire day in the home so that you can get out and do errands or even just take a day to pamper yourself.
  • Make sure you do not forget to eat properly and do basic maintenance for yourself. If your health declines, you will not be able to continue caring for the cancer patient.
  • Keep in constant contact with the cancer patient's doctors. Make sure you are aware of any changes in care protocol. Write the new changes down and adjust any other records as applicable.

   
Should I make the time to seek caregiver assistance and support?

Caregivers: Support and Assistance

Being a caregiver can be very stressful, especially if the caregiver is the only person available to be the caregiver. There are programs that can help train a caregiver to learn to take care of him or herself and to prevent burnout and eventual related health problems.

Many programs offer an educational series on how the caregiver should take care of him or herself in areas of stress reduction, life and caregiver balance, communications and how to make hard decisions. Caregiver programs also help the caregiver complete applications for financial assistance, energy assistance, Medicare and Medicaid, transportation services and meal services.

Caregiver assistance groups may be found online or throughout your community. If the caregiver support group is in your local community, it may provide a caregiver library with books and DVDs on caring for an elderly person or a person with health issues. The center may also have computers and staff to help the caregiver research topics of interest relating to their charge's illness.

   
Should a cancer patient caregiver enlist the help of outside resources?

Caregivers: Taking Care of a Cancer Patient

Taking care of a cancer patient can be rewarding and stressful at the same time. While it feels good to be able to take care of a loved one at home where he or she can be comfortable, it can be stressful on the cancer caregiver. Advanced cancer patients require round-the-clock care--depending on the type of cancer and medications prescribed, the caregiver may have to wake up many times during the night to give the patient medications or check vital signs.

Cancer patient caregivers should also make sure they have all of the emergency contact information where it can be found. If there should be an emergency and the cancer patient needs to be transported to the closest hospital and that hospital is not the treating hospital, the doctors will need to know all of the medications that the cancer patient is on. The doctors will also need to know about any medical treatments the cancer patient is undergoing (such as chemotherapy).

The cancer patient caregiver should be sure to get plenty of rest and take care of him or herself. Hospice staff can come in to help the cancer patient caregiver and give the caregiver a break for a few hours. Hospices also offers overnight care, so that the primary caregiver can get some rest and be at full working potential during the daylight hours.

   
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Linda Handiak