Many adults who juggle caring for their children, working, maintaining their home, and managing other life responsibilities can find themselves needing to take on the additional task of caring for aging parents or relatives, resulting in what is commonly referred to as Caregiver Strain. The fatigue of caregiving without an adequate support system can result in a lower standard of care in addition to lower energy levels, worse self-care, and a decline in one’s mental health. When caring for an elder or elders with cognitive decline, the aforementioned strain can be even greater and developing good coping mechanisms is indispensable.
While some cognitive decline is natural with age, adults over 65 are at much higher risk for clinical cognitive issues that can be caused by Alzheimer’s, stroke, cardiopulmonary issues, mental illness, and even UTI’s.
The team at Senior Steps, Inc. has compiled a list of habits to incorporate into your routine to lessen the effects of caregiving fatigue and continue to provide the help your older loved one needs in navigating cognitive decline:
Write things down
If you notice your parent or relative’s cognitive issues leading to forgetfulness, make use of some strategically placed pens, notebooks, and post-it notes around the house. Make sure they have login and access information, important addresses, and appointments written down in easy-to-find spots, including their cellphone.
Buy a pill case
Also relating to memory issues, if your parent or relative takes prescription medication or supplements on a schedule, it’s important to help them set alarms and reminders and have a labeled pill case to help them remember whether they had already taken their meds, so they don’t double dose.
Help automate their bills
One of the more common signs of cognitive decline is having unprecedented difficulty with managing finances. If you notice your parent or relative neglecting to pay their bills, help them talk to their financial institutions to automate payments and set reasonable spending limits.
Continue to care for yourself
While caring for others, it can be easy to fall behind on self-care, leading to a decline in your ability to act as a caregiver. Prioritize your physical needs, such as maintaining a healthy sleep schedule, preparing healthy meals, including an appropriate level of exercise and physical activity in your routine, and caring for your hygiene, but do not forget to schedule guilt-free time for yourself, socialize, and make time for your hobbies. You cannot pour from an empty cup!
Consider outside help
Caregiving does not have to be a one-person job! Oftentimes the stress and our internal loyalty to our friends and family can make us feel guilty about considering outside help or assistance with caring for our elder relatives. But caring for an elder relative, especially one with cognitive decline, is a full-time job. The compounding stress of managing and fulfilling this car, along with all of our other life obligations, can cause serious stress and emotional turmoil. Outside help, such as a qualified geriatric care manager, can relieve much of the burden of caring for an elder. Geriatric Care Managers can manage medications, schedule appointments, arrange transportation, and even meet with the plumber for a clogged drain; this is on top of being healthcare professionals! So, consider looking for outside help when you’re feeling stressed as a caregiver for an elder parent.
These are just a few tips to help when supporting an elder relative with cognitive decline or other health issues. For more, check out the rest of our blogs at SeniorSteps.org/blog.