People have often asked us during consultations or lectures when “the right time” is for someone to move to seniors housing. There is no easy answer, but generally, our response is that there are two right times to consider– one for the person who is receiving care and one for the person who is caregiving. Hopefully, they arrive at the same time but often they do not. This month Elder Voice looks at the point at which Caregivers need to consider seniors housing for their loved one.
Caregiving can be seen as a series or set of tasks,which can be divided into two areas. One is called “IADL: Instrumental Activities of Daily Living” and include helping with shopping, cooking, house or yard work, banking and laundry. The second area is called “ADL: Activities of Daily Living.” These are personal care tasks such as helping with dressing, bathing, washing, grooming, eating, and toiletting.The scope of caregiving increases as the number of those tasks or the frequency with which you assist in providing them increases.
Every caregiver has a different tolerance level for caregiving and helping with those tasks. It depends on your work life, your health, your marriage and family,and your finances, as well as the history of your relationship with the person you are caring for. Your situation may look the same as someone else’s, but almost certainly it is not. Even after hiring a home care worker, you can reach a point at which Seniors Housing becomes the most viable option for you.
There are a few practical behavioural “markers” which indicate from a caregiver’s perspective that it is time to look at Seniors Housing. Are any of the following occurring in your situation?
- Is your loved one starting to become incontinent?
- Is he wandering from the home and getting lost, or is he so unsafe outside by himself that you have to monitor the doors?
- Are his sleep patterns changing or he is up all night causing your sleep to be interrupted to the point where your functioning is affected?
- Is he starting to become resistant to the care you are trying to provide or aggressive with you while you are trying to do so?
- Is he overwhelming you by asking the same question over and over again?
- Does he become so anxious when you are not nearby, that it is difficult for you to go out or have some time for yourself?
Keep in mind for your sake as well as that of the person you are caring for,that the best time for a change is BEFORE you start to suffer from burn out. Burnout is a physiological state at which the immune and other systems in the body become compromised, putting one’s health at risk.
The following are indicators that you may be burning out:
- Feelings of hopelessness and helplessness.
- Irritation and anger which seem spontaneous.
- Overuse of alcohol or prescription medications to deal with emotions.
- Fatigue and loss of energy.
- Changes in appetite, sleep patterns, and libido.
- Crying and overwhelming sadness.
These above are your body’s way of telling you that you are reaching your limit. To continue caregiving as you are puts both yourself and the person you are caring for at risk. If you are experiencing two or more of these symptoms, the time is right to seriously consider Seniors Housing.
A third way to assess whether the time is right is to look at what we might call environmental factors–your personal environment. Ask yourself:
- Is caregiving taking too much time from your children or marriage? Are you choosing the person you are caring for over your spouse or children? Are you fighting more with your spouse?
- Have you given up your friendships and involvement with your community?
- Have you given up your hobbies or interests?
- Are you turning down invitations and opportunities because she is not able to participate in them any longer?
Finally, pay attention to how you talk to yourself; there are clues in one’s self-talk that will tell you now is the time. Do you tell yourself:
- Things aren’t that bad or others have a more difficult situation than you do.
- Buck up, get a grip on yourself.
- You promised to do “X” or not to put “Y” in a home, so you are going to keep your promise no matter what.
- Your family should just understand why you are doing this.
- You couldn’t live with yourself if you did anything different.
- Your mother/father/husband did/would do this for you
All of these thoughts indicate that you are in conflict with yourself and you may be pushing yourself when it is no longer good for you and maybe your loved one. These are signs that the time to reconsider your options is now.
Making It Easier to Decide When the Time is Right
Many Caregivers know for a long time that they continue as they have been and something has to change. They recognize the overload of caregiving activities,the feelings of burnout, the thoughts that go through their heads; they persevere despite that knowledge. Some caregivers deny to themselves that they are becoming overwhelmed. Buried deep inside, they cut the knowledge off from their daily awareness enabling them to avoid taking that next step. Unfortunately, the cost to health and family maybe be hidden too,
There are ways to make it easier to face the future you have been avoiding or not wanting to think about.
- Be willing to face and work through guilt, grief, fear, and other feelings that may be holding you back.
- Learn about Seniors housing options that are available and go see them.You may find that they are different from what you thought.
- Find peer support through formal support groups or by talking to friends who have been through what you are going through.
- Try talking with your loved one openly about the situation and through a series of conversations you may find that you are making the decision together.
- Use professional support, such as the counselling and planning that are available through Diamond Geriatrics. We can help you and your loved one through the process of deciding what is best.
BC Ombudsperson Releases Report
Ompbudsperson of BC, Kim Carter released her report on services to seniors on February 14th. It includes over 170 recommendations aimed at improving the quality of life for seniors and caregivers and helping them to access care and information.
For information on the role of the Ombudsperson, click here to see the February, 2011 Elder Voice.
To read the BC Government’s just released plan outlining changes in services to seniors click here .