Friday, May 24, 2013

Coping Skills

caregiverHumana’s ‘Caring for Health’ newsletter this month had an interesting article called “Coping with a loved one’s decline.” The article’s focus is on longer life expectancy and older people living with chronic conditions … and the role that family caregivers face. Those of living with Kennedy’s Disease encounter many of these same issues.

It starts out commenting that the emotional toll of functional decline can be challenging for caregivers. “It is important to take note and to try to understand the meaning of behaviors, to reduce risks and liabilities, and preserve the older person’s dignity and quality of life.” This means that prior to a crisis, caregivers need to:
  • Educate themselves on the issues and opportunities,
  • communicate openly, and
  • consider potential situations and emergencies and develop well thought out contingency plans.

As most of our family members know, caring for a loved one with a progressive disorder is never easy. The article recommends the following strategies to help reduce stress and improve communications.
  • Obtain an objective assessment of the person’s declining capabilities from a medical professional.
    • It might be difficult to have the person with Kennedy’s Disease talk openly with a professional. Pride is always an issue as well as fear and anger. These are all normal responses to lost capacity or capability. In some cases, the person will refuse to acknowledge that there is an issue at all.
    • Acknowledging and empathizing with the painful feelings associated with the health issue can ease some of the frustrations.
    • Also, reflecting on the person’s past accomplishments and recent ‘wins’ can help refocus the mindset of the individual.

  • Attempt to share rather than take control of decision making.
    • If at all possible, the older person needs to feel that their ideas and concerns, as well as their decisions, are being considered and are part of the decision-making process in regards to their life.
AdvocateAs a caregiver, it is just as important that you acknowledge your own feelings and emotions that relate to the loved one’s decline. Seek out help for depressive symptoms. Keep active and nurture your social support system so that when you need help, others are there for you. Accept that you have limits and no when you have reached them. Schedule time that you are not required to be a caregiver and participate in things that you enjoy doing, are relaxing, and help reduce stress.

And, most important, know your limits and don’t be afraid to ask for help.

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