Are you an expectant caregiver?
Are you wondering what that term even means?
An Expectant Caregiver* most often is the child or grandchild of someone who is undergoing progressive need of guidance, physical care or is suffering increased medical emergencies.
* The term “Expectant Caregiver,” comes from Denise Brown, The Caregiving Years, Six Stages to a Meaningful Journey.
Let’s start with a few definitions:
A caregiver is someone who delivers ongoing support to someone else with a significant injury or illness. We are primarily addressing the challenges of the caregiver who is not compensated for their caregiving efforts. Many times caregivers continue to hold down a job, raise their family, and continue with the responsibilities of a full life outside of their caregiving responsibilities. It can be the care of a parent, spouse, partner, child, close friend or sibling.
A caree* is the person that you are caring for, or potentially caring for.
*the term caree courtesy of Denise Brown of caregiving.com
Sometimes circumstances cause us to leap into the role of caregiver due to an unexpected injury or emergency medical situation. But, other times we may ease into this role….it sort of sneaks up on you, and suddenly you realize that you have crossed over an invisible line that officially put you into the position of becoming a caregiver.
Knowledge is power and the time to plan is before there is a crisis.
Ten ways to know if you are an expectant caregiver:
1) The person in question is making increased trips to the doctor, hospital, or emergency room for the same condition or complaint. This can indicate a significant shift in the overall health of an aging parent or grandparent. A diagnosis may be in their near future that alters their ability to care for themselves.
2) You are seeing in increasing number of forgetful spells or an intensity of loss of memory. We all forget where our keys are, we all forget to pay a bill now and then. Stress increases memory loss for everyone, no matter age, physical or mental condition. However, when you can see an increase in their forgetfulness, or you come into their house to find the kitchen stove on with no one cooking or paying attention, or you find evidence that everyday tasks are not being completed, it is time to pay closer attention. Keep in mind that partners will almost always cover for one another. Direct questions will probably not yield any direct results. You may have to become a super sleuth.
3) The condition of the potential caree’s personal space. If this person has always been neat and clean and suddenly their home or room is unkempt and disorganized, it is probably because of an underlying cause. Lawns may start to get longer, gardens not weeded, pruning not done. These tasks can simply become too difficult to manage.
4) Look in the refrigerator. If you open up the fridge and find a living organism of green fuzzies and outdated food stuff, the time is overdue for at the very least, mild intervention.
5) A marked change in their interests. Someone who has played bridge twice a week for 15 years, or never misses Sunday morning church service but suddenly seems uninterested, has something deeper going on. It may be depression or it may be a medical condition or lack of energy. Whatever the cause, a sudden change of pattern or interest is a critical indicator to look for.
6) A noticeable change in weight, either up or down. We all know that a sudden loss of weight can indicate any number of medical problems, but weight gain can be something to watch out for as well. Someone may be depressed and eating “comfort” or junk food to excess. Or, they may not have the energy to cook properly so they begin to rely on overly processed foods because they require little effort.
7) Expression of concern by neighbor(s). Sometimes when there is a change in behavior, the neighbors may be the first ones to notice. They may see that the person in question can no longer do what they’ve done in the past, or have taken to wandering the neighborhood, or are having increased difficulty navigating vehicles in and out of the garage. If a neighbor makes the effort to communicate concern, it is definitely time to listen.
8) An increase to the number of calls to you at work without specific cause. Early onset Alzheimer’s can be very frustrating to the person experiencing the symptoms. The symptoms can also be confusing. Are you getting calls from your Dad every day at work, or multiple calls a day for no reason? Is a parent or spouse repeatedly calling because they are bored and don’t know what to do with themselves? Are they exaggerating medical issues to get your attention?
9) Does one or both of your parents need increasing intervention with their medications? It can begin with organizing their meds for the week. Some Saturday when you arrive to organize their medication you realize they haven’t taken any, or perhaps they took them more than necessary because they aren’t paying attention to the days on the med box. Moving on to an alarmed pill disbursement box may help, but these are clear indicators the there is a decline in mental function.
10) This may be the most important of all. Your intuition. If your inner voice is telling you that a health situation is on the decline, listen to that voice. We may begin to get intuitive messages long before you definitively see any of the other indicators.
Use this time to begin to prepare. Begin now and develop the foundation of your caregiving plan. Arrange a conversation with other family members to understand who will help and how. Don’t leave these major decisions until there is a crisis.
Consider a complementary 30 minute session to determine your needs. We offer a number of support programs for all stages of the caregiving journey.