Sunday, February 9, 2014

Coping with Caregivers - How to take care of yourself during caregiving challenges

Like many with disabilities, I've had some wonderful caregivers over the years.  Some of these folks have remained my friends a long time after they stop being my caregiver, which is a really special gift.

But no caregiver stays forever and when you need to fill a lot of caregiving hours, it's inevitable that there are times when new caregivers present certain challenges.  Not a lot is written about this. In general, articles address how to deal with US - the person receiving the caregiving.  What gets overlooked, unfortunately, is the stress that we feel when changing caregivers.

During the transitional period when a new catregiver comes in, there's often a lot of stress.  First, the new person must be taught how you want things done.  Mutual expectations must be dealt with. Training has to be addressed quickly to avoid possible health complications. And on and on.

In the midst of all this, what's the best way to take care of ourselves at the same time we may be missing a caregiver who left?

I've got a few suggestions that work for me.  Be sure to speak up for yourself.  Enforce rules and boundaries that you've set about things that are most important to you.  For example, if a new aide is habitually late and that won't work for you, say something.

State your expectation clearly. Stick to the facts and avoid any drama - and then walk or roll away if the response is inappropriate or irresponsible.  This is important because whatever you tolerate you'll have to live with.  And what's tolerable for a few weeks may not be over months or years.

Pay attention to your social life, your friends, your job, your family, etc.  Don't be sidetracked into putting more energy than the new aide to making things work! Most aides come and go, and if you lose your own life in the process, you'll be left in a very lonely place.  I used to tend to be over-responsible and try to "make things work". Now I realize that it's okay to expect more of an effort from an employee and even to let him or her fail or quit.

Be sure to reach out to those who care about you while going through this transition.  Get feedback about issues you encounter if you need it and advice and suggestions if you find yourself feeling angry or overwhelmed.  After all, it can physically wear you down if a new aide fails to do his or her job and then, when you're at your worst, somehow you have to be an employer and address the situation calmly and efficiently.  That's a tall order!

Lastly, remember you cannot control the situation.  All you can do is learn from your experiences in hiring and training and keeping aides.  It may be a matter at times of choosing the best aide from the applicants you get and compromising.  Or perhaps you received a different impression during the interview(s) than you now feel in working with the person.  These things happen and often can be worked out, but the important thing is to learn from what occurs.

Although it's not always easy to change caregivers, it can be a rewarding experience too. Who knows- maybe your next caregiver will be the best one  you ever had.

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