Caregivers - how do you feel about this advice?

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Families or others involved with an elderly person must recognize the all too common attitude of worthlessness, defeat and resignation from elderly loved ones and take corrective action. They should encourage and possibly even prod the older person to be stimulated mentally, socially and physically -- to be actively involved; to give him or her a purpose for living. But families should also be very careful not to become patronizing or controlling but be genuinely supportive in this process. Here are some ideas. -Make sure an elderly loved one has challenging activities throughout the day instead of simply watching TV or viewing videos. This might include trips to interesting places, visiting senior centers, providing challenging games or puzzles, doing volunteer work, providing an opportunity to be involved in church work, offering stimulating conversation or working on an adult education class or college degree. -If the person is interested, encourage him or her to become involved in handcraft, genealogies, creative design, writing, scrap booking or other challenging home oriented activities. -Give them responsibility for taking care of pets such as a dog, a cat or a friendly bird. In addition, if feasible, allow them to care for plants as well. This strategy is used often in nursing homes to reduce depression in the elderly and to actually improve their health as well. It really works. -If a caregiver for an older person cannot be present, make arrangements to enroll a loved one in adult day care. These providers often offer the same strategies we are talking about here. -Provide opportunities for family and friends to come by and visit and encourage or even arrange such encounters. -Provide opportunities for the older person to interact, teach and nurture children such as grandchildren or children in a day care center. This is an extremely effective strategy for helping the older person feel that he or she has a meaningful existence. And it has a dramatic impact on improving and maintaining health. -Design or arrange an exercise program and come up with a way to encourage the older person to follow it. -Understand the nutrition needs of an older loved one, especially the need for vitamins and minerals including iron. Get some books on the subject or go to the Internet. Make sure the person takes care of him or herself and eats properly. Fixing special meals, providing treats, getting takeout or going out to dinner can be fun and exciting for anyone regardless of age. Many elderly people neglect their own nutrition. Poor nutrition can cause all kinds of mental and physical problems in the elderly. -Make sure an older person has opportunity to look good and have nice clothing. Make sure the person gets out in public, and tries dining out or going to a public event and can feel good about his or her appearance.

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This advice is headshakingly comical on some levels. It's obviously written by a person who's never been a caregiver for a family member. I'll think of something challenging, fascinating and interesting while I'm wiping hubby's bum after a bm or choking on ammonia fumes while washing his sheets. I'll give up the last vestiges of my own life, wants and needs by making sure he's doing something constructive, no matter that he's bedridden and watches reruns 24/7/365 and doesn't WANT to be any other way. Finally, I promise to take all this as a challenge to my untrained caregiving skills and jump out of bed every day thinking "Oh, I can't wait to make his life oh so much better. He will be eager and cooperative with my efforts, I'm just sure of it!" And then after I've been Super Caregiver Woman all day, I'll clean, cook, do laundry, handle the finances! Sheesh. What a load of BS.
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If this "advice" weren't so ridiculous, unreasonable and totally impractical, I would be amused. I thought initially it was written by a fresh faced college student who went through college on parents' money or completely on students loans and never worked a day in her/his life, and is now launching his or her brilliant self, complete with a face wide grin of accomplishment, out onto the world of caregiving.

Since it's a geriatrician, I've got to believe that it's still a fresh faced newly minted doctor with no practical experience yet in the real world of geriatrics and caregiving. This person is in for a rude shock.

If I wasn't off on one of those exciting missions of being a caregiver, I'd write more as this kind of pablum really irks me. I did in fact include a caregiving task parody, but deleted it after reading HugeMom's post. Given what little I do compared to her and others who've posted over the months and years, I now feel totally inadequate. And I feel deprived of the full range of caregiving experience.

Maybe I should volunteer to work with someone else who needs caregiving to totally complete my daily experience?

I just don't have the opportunity to face all of the challenges of caregiving that are available. I guess that means I'm a failure. No gold star for me. Just more backaches, mental confusion, complete exhaustion and high levels of anxiety and stress. Perhaps Dr. Know-it-all feels those are benefits in some perverted way.

And it's interesting that he/she failed to mention those wonderful side effects, or perhaps they should be considered benefits.

I hope whoever finds me planted upside down in my ferns figures out what I'm there and notifies Dr. Know-it-all that this caregiver just couldn't "cut the mustard" and that he/she needs to rethink the arrogant, condescending, naïve blather he/she recommends.
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Crumbs. Left to myself I'd have stopped reading after "take corrective action."

I do always try to look at things from the elder's point of view. And the day I am content for someone to "take corrective action" about my negative attitude or my wish for a bit of peace and quiet or my reluctance to take up challenging new handicrafts or to interact with people I might previously have gone out of my way to avoid will be the day I should be locked up as a danger to myself.

But, as we all know, as the writer no doubt knows, this screed is a counsel of perfection. And it's aiming to counterbalance the cheap, convenient caregiving method of plonking rows of elders in front of a blaring TV all day and letting them rot willy-nilly, which is equally horrible in its own, opposite way. So smile, or nod gravely, thank your 'advisor' for his good intentions, and say "I'll certainly bear that in mind." Then go outside and laugh yourself sick.
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As you might have guessed, this advice does not come from me. It comes from an article I came across on the web, by a geriatrician. My own reaction was twofold: One, my mother who sits and watches TV and eats junk food and reads mystery novels all day long would never do any of those things. Either she's not capable physically or she has no interest. She can hardly be bothered to read her own mail!

My second reaction was from the position of the poor beleaguered caregivers trying to manage their own lives while taking care of an elderly parent. "Make sure the loved one has challenging activities throughout the day" - are you kidding? Who has all day to devote to that? "Study up on elderly nutrition and make sure the person takes care of themselves and eats properly?" "Design an exercise program and make sure they follow it."" Really????

Okay, my unspoken third reaction. How can it be anyone else's job to make sure that someone's life is purposeful and meaningful? Doesn't everyone, even the elderly, have to find that for themselves? If my mother wanted some meaning and purpose in her life, she could do it without any help from me. First off, develop some interest in other people's lives. Become a good listener and a source of support. You can do that from a wheelchair. Take back some of your own chores, like making phone calls and organizing paperwork, and feel good about giving your family members what relief you can from doing everything for you. If my mother won't do even these thing for herself, I don't see why I should whirl around all day trying to find meaningful activities for her.

Okay, end of rant. Any thoughts?
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This is the kind of advice they used to give parents (mothers) that created a whole generation of guilt ridden supermoms, it seems logical but nobody can do all that. I remember ranting that I could deal with the bowel dysfunction and all the physical care but I just couldn't be her Everything. The irony is that neither can the AL/NH, where there are oodles of paid and (supposedly) trained staff, mom isn't the only one left to stare at the wall day after day.
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Carla, could you PM me the article and URL? I'd love to make some contributions on that website to help this baby geriatrician enter the real world. Tactfully, of course.
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The fact that it is written by a geriatrician isn't terribly surprising when I consider the almost total lack of understanding I have encountered among most of those who have made it their life's work to care for the elderly; from doctors to home care aides, RNs, cooks and dietary supervisors, social workers, activity directors..... Often they are bright, articulate and well meaning, but despite having years of experience just don't get it. And who am I to question them or point out flaws in their beliefs, why I am obviously in denial or spending too much time reading online or simply a troublemaker.
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Ditto Carla. That grandiose advice is great for caregivers who have oodles of free time. And endless patience. And no one else in his/her life. And a compliant parent!

During my stint as Mom's 2nd brain and extra hands, I worked a demanding full-time job (closer to 50 hrs/week than 40). Commute added 2 hours to each workday. And I lived about 30 miles from Mom in the opposite direction.

I had to prioritize what I did for Mom. Roles that got scratched off the list immediately were Life Coach, Brain Restorer and Julie The Cruise Director.

Weekday evenings were not an option. Seemingly due to logistics. But Mom's p.m. shenanigans were the greater factor.

I was willing to have a non-stop 17-hour day once in a while, if that's what it took to have both my Saturday AND my Sunday to myself. But Mom snapped shut every window blind right before dusk. As it became fully dark, she only navigated the house by flashlight. No real lights, because she couldn't have "them" see her moving around in there.

OK then. I added that to the bundle of crazy talk that the elder-care experts say we should let roll off our backs. And reserved my weekday evenings for paying my own bills and doing my own chores. Or staring into space, incredulous at what my life -- and what's left of my family -- had turned into.

I reserved Saturday or Sunday for Mom. I gave her no choice of which day. I told Mom which day was more convenient (less inconvenient) for me.

In hindsight, maybe I did participate in geriatric brain stimulation. Because this meant Mom had to work her obsession with dragging herself to Mass around my schedule. There were 4 nearby parishes she could visit, each with 3 or 4 options Fri-Sat-Sun. A no-brainer.....if your brain works right.

Every now and then, Mom would miscalculate (is my word-choice tame enough?) and "had" to kick me out of her house so she could attend her "only"(?!) option. Fine. More free time for me. See ya next week.

Note: Mom had a retired sister nearby, who could also do minor stuff for Mom. When they weren't butting heads or misinterpreting each other. I was glad to have the pinch-hitter, but could not rely on Aunt 100%. Not super-savvy with life stuff. (If I had a nickel for every time I explained the difference between health insurance and long-term care insurance, etc etc.) And not a good "witness." 70 years of putting big sister (Mom) on a pedestal caused Aunt to deliver some, um, fanciful explanations for what was going on in that house. Sigh.

Back to my point. And Carla's. A big fat NO to being the nuts-and-bolts helper AND the spice of life AND the wraparound services.

Sheeesh. Don't "go there." We have enough to feel bad about.

Any caregiver advice that does not acknowledge the caregiver's need to manage his/her own life and be present for his/her own loved ones is useless drivel.
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Thank goodness everyone here feels all of this is not possible. For a hot second I thought I was really dropping the ball here! I can only do about 1/4 of this list! That's on a REALLY good day lol!
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