So many people in the groups are facing caregiving situations where it’s impossible for them to do what’s required to meet the needs of the people in their lives. Accepting that we can’t do it all isn’t an option when the lives of people we love hang in the balance.
In order to get real advice I knew I needed to talk to Harriet Hodgson. Harriet has served as a caregiver to multiple people in her life, while remaining responsible for many other things. If you need to do the impossible, she can tell you how.
I asked Harriet: As someone who’s provided an incredibly high level of care while doing so much else for a long time, what advice would you have for someone else struggling in a similar situation? Here’s what she had to say:
My first suggestion is to explore available services. For example, the National Institute of Aging published a helpful booklet, “Long-Distance Caregiving,” which contains helpful ideas for all caregivers, not just long-distance ones. The NIH has published other free resources too.
The federal government also has a free meal program for seniors, which, according to my sources, is available in all states. The Rochester Senior Center participates in this program. People over age 60 can eat there for free, five days a week there if they make a reservation the day before. A $4.00 donation is suggested.
The Salvation Amy in my hometown has a day care program for adults. This half-day program gives caregivers a short, well-needed respite.
The church, synagogue or mosque may have a volunteer or two who would be willing to help out. To help volunteers make a decision, the caregiver needs to be able to tell their story concisely, say what they need, and show a few photos of their loved one.
Caregivers may call Social Services and ask about support groups for caregivers. These groups are becoming more common. Talking with other caregivers, even if it’s only one or two, is extremely helpful.
Relatives may be willing to help but, according to my research, this isn’t always true.
Finally, the caregiver could write a Letter to the Editor, stating their need and asking for suggestions. Again, the caregiver should be concise and tell what they need—meal delivery, cleaning, laundry, or someone to stay with the care receiver for a couple of hours.
A medical student or nursing student may be willing to help out.
I hired a retired RN to help care for John. She came for an hour and a half each day to get John from his bed to wheelchair, shower, and dress him. Her fee was drastically reduced and worth every penny.
The Mayo Clinic has a free support service which has all sorts of support groups: disease specific, caregiving, surgery, pain, end-of-life, etc. I belong to the grief group and comment when I think I can be helpful.