This is part two of my four part family caregiver series. “Help for Holidays” is a collection of observations I’ve amassed over more than eight years of working with non-professional, family caregivers.
These observations include some fundamental differences between new caregivers, and those with a few years of experience.
Part two is about shedding the belief that care giving can be contained by the caregiver, and look to outside help, support, and education.
Part #2: The Experienced Caregiver Seeks Outside Help and Education
Because the symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease and other dementia causing illnesses are case-by-case, scouring the Internet for information is just the start of a caregiver’s education. Static pages of information listing the stages and symptoms of Alzheimer’s can be informative, but often raise more questions than they answer.
An ancient Chinese proverb states that a single conversations with a wise person is better than ten years of study.
Professionals, like a care manager, a social worker, or a family therapist, who works with family caregivers, provide a dialogue, rather than a mound of information to sift through. These conversations facilitate faster understanding by allowing the caregiver to explore specific problems that a pamphlet or a web search may not easily, or efficiently provide.
And, here is where the difference lies: an experienced caregiver has long shed the delusion that s/he can go-it-alone. The experienced caregiver knows that outside help is a necessity. Just the BELIEF that “containing the problem” is a possibility, is not good for the caregiver, or the sick person.
Some support groups can quickly teach the family caregiver that they are not alone, and normalize common feelings. Participants soon see that everyone feels guilty, ineffective, clueless, angry, and resentful at times (even the experienced caregivers).
As important as what you can learn in a group, is what you can teach. In my support groups, participants are often surprised to find that they know more than they thought. The groups give unsure caregivers a chance to be the wise one when they troubleshoot other participants’ questions and problems.
Realizing that outside help is necessary can be very difficult for people, and some people don’t ever fully absorb this concept. Failing to seek help makes adjustment to caregiving and care more complicated for everyone involved.
Furthermore, resisting or avoiding the help discovered is often a fast-track to greater stress, caregiver burnout, depression, and declining health for the sick person AND the caregiver!
Find a way to find support, get education, and get help sooner rather than later. It is good for everyone’s health and wellbeing.
Did you miss part one? Read how experienced family caregivers stop over-protecting everyone now.