Older adults Cover stories

Caring for the caregiver

Your well-being is important, too

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The right information

To many people, the health care system can cause plenty of confusion. This can be especially true for care-givers, says Jo-Ana Chase, an assistant professor at the University of Missouri’s Sinclair School of Nursing.

Chase studied 40 caregivers of patients who were sent home from a hospitalization with home health care. Although the patients received information when they were discharged, many caregivers said they had to learn on their own when caring for someone.

“A large majority said they didn’t really receive a lot of useful information or any information at all when an older adult was discharged,” Chase said.

Instead, they often relied on Google, asking friends or finding caregiver support groups.

Chase noted in the study that written instructions and demonstrations from home health professionals were an important aspect of training caregivers. “

We had one caregiver who really appreciated the written instructions,” Chase said. “He would show it to his loved one and say, ‘Look, I’m not making this up.’”

Caregivers also should keep a list of questions and take it to every medical appointment. “

Don’t be afraid to ask,” Chase said. “The information you receive will be helpful. It will give you greater confidence.”

Amy Goyer and her parents

Amy Goyer (center), a blogger for AARP, was a caregiver for her mother, Patricia, and her father, Robert.

Find the rewards

To provide additional care for her parents, Goyer relocated to Arizona. Although she took on greater responsi-bility, she also earned greater rewards by spending more time with her mother and father.

“The biggest reward for me was being there for my loved ones who needed me,” Goyer said. “I couldn’t solve every crisis. I could not be a perfect caregiver. There is no such thing.”

She urges caregivers to find small joys that will endure as lasting memories. When she would tuck her mother in each night, Goyer remembers her mother’s bright smile.

“That image is forever in my mind,” she said. “I knew she felt safe and secure and loved and cared for.” Goyer, who began her professional life as a music therapist, used music regularly to help her father.

“I know I made his life better,” she said.

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