November is National Family Caregiver Month and is a time to thank and honor the 40-plus million unpaid caregivers in the U.S.
Not all superheroes wear capes. Caregivers are superheroes! Managing medications. Getting to doctor appointments. Balancing work and home. How can family caregivers handle it all?
The National Family Caregivers Association offers the following suggestions for new caregiving tools that can help lighten the load:
Think safety first. If your elderly loved one is aging at home, safety and security is your first priority. You can’t be there with them every minute of the day. But all sorts of gadgets can help keep them safe, maintain their independence and relieve some of your worries. Wearable sensors can monitor a patient and contact family members if their loved one falls or if an emergency occurs. Smart homes and smart locks can help, too.
Unlock the power of medical records. Information is power, and caregiver access to online patient medical records is getting easier and more powerful every day. With online patient portals, you can get your loved one’s health and insurance information how and when you need it. Join the millions of family caregivers who have already accessed their loved one’s online medical records to improve care.
Master the medications. One of your most important daily responsibilities is managing medications — making sure they are taken properly and on time, getting refills, and watching for side effects. Your loved one may have more than one illness and have to take several medications. Tech tools are an easy, safe way to track your loved one’s meds and make caregiving a bit less stressful.
Unleash the power of apps. Caregiving is overwhelming, and you simply can’t do it all by yourself. Luckily, there are many apps and tools that can help caregivers do almost anything from A to Z. Check your loved one’s vital signs. Locate them with GPS if they wander off. Get healthy eating plans at the touch of a button. Or connect with caregiver support groups and online communities. Use apps to streamline your tasks so you can get a break and take a few minutes to recharge your own batteries.
Caregivers are rising to the demands and challenges of their role every day. If you are a caregiver and find yourself needing some help and/or guidance, SeniorCare has several services to help you. Call 978-281-1750 and ask to speak with information and referral or an options counselor. Or, visit the SeniorCare website at www.seniorcareinc.org.
Are you a long-distance caregiver with a loved one who depends on you on the other end of the country? Long-distance caregivers take on different roles. You may:
Help with finances, money management or bill paying.
Arrange for in-home care — hire professional caregivers or home health or nursing aides and help get needed durable medical equipment
Locate care in an assisted-living facility or nursing home (also known as a skilled nursing facility).
Provide emotional support and occasional respite care for a primary caregiver, the person who takes on most of the everyday caregiving responsibilities.
Serve as an information coordinator — research health problems or medicines, help navigate through a maze of new needs, and clarify insurance benefits and claims.
Keep family and friends updated and informed.
Create a plan and get paperwork in order in case of an emergency.
Evaluate the house and make sure it’s safe for the older person’s needs.
Over time, as your family member’s needs change, so will your role as long-distance caregiver.
To learn about resources in your loved one’s state, visit the online elder care locator at www.eldercare.acl.gov. This website is a public service of the U.S. Administration on Aging and will help connect you to services for older adults. If you prefer to call, you can call 800-677-1116.
Whether you are caring for a loved one living in your home or caring from a distance, caregiving can a difficult and task. AARP researchers found in 2019 that 1 in 10 caregivers have no one to talk to about private matters and 1 in 5 have no one to call for help. Make sure you don’t forget to take care of yourself.
Even superheroes need a little TLC to keep going.
Tracy Arabian is the communications officer at SeniorCare Inc., a local agency on aging that serves Gloucester, Beverly, Essex, Hamilton, Ipswich, Manchester-by-the-Sea, Rockport, Topsfield and Wenham.