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I am 18 years old and just stated taking care of my elderly aunt a couple months ago after her hip replacement surgery. She is very stressed out and sometimes irritable as a result. She is also very emotional, but I am not. It is natural because she has had to start walking with a cane when previously she had been unassisted, and I do figure this qualifies as a big lifestyle change that I expect will not affect her moods like this for long. For the time being, though, I would like to know how to be a better caregiver or have some guidelines to follow from people who have had experience in this field because I have never taken care of someone elderly before -- especially not someone three generations above me and who has a different personality from me. What do elderly patients/care-receivers like to see? What are some ways to stay positive and healthy? How do you commonly manage stress? How do you manage the sometimes-irritable moods, both yours and your care-receivers'? For those who have moved out of home to take care of someone before: how do you manage occasional homesickness and stay resolute? Thank you. :)

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Lizzy - as a young person, try to bring love and laughter into your aunt's life.
Don't take it personally when she is irritable. Offer sympathy. Tell her that her life sucks. Hopefully that will make her laugh.

Say things like, "I'm sorry your life has gotten so bad. Can I give you a hug? or a nice cup of tea?"

Ask her about her younger life. She has a lot to share with you, and that will take her mind off her troubles.

Let her do things for herself more and more as she recovers. You can do it faster, but she needs the exercise and the feeling of self-worth from accomplishing things. The Captain is right. PATIENCE! Life will s l o w down.

Skills you will learn now will help you if you become a parent someday. God bless you.
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@ bizzylizzy,
ill bet the " bizzy " suffix on your name wasnt just a random, rhyming word. yea your going to be buzy but make time stand still when you tend to the elder. their thought process is slow and you have to accomodate their pace or itll agitate them. if your wise enough to seek info and ask questions, i think your wise enough to be the best caregiver ever. its not a small task, few people can cope.
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Bizzylizzy you must make your parents proud!

Just remember that if things get too tough let them know, don't try to go it alone! Take time out of the house alone...
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Buzzy,
You rock! An 18 year old who can take on this responsibility and face it with the maturity and poise you reflect is amazing.
I am sure you will do a wonderful job and go on to college. Whatever field you choose, you will conquer.
It is not an easy challenge you have accepted, bit I am certain both you and your aunt will grow from it.
God bless you,
L
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Bizzylizzy you are a beautiful beautiful girl. May this experience be uniquely rewarding for you. And the very fact that you ask the right questions and seek advice in the right places reassures me that you are also an extremely practical one. Your aunt is a lucky lady. Bless you, and as everyone is right to say: know when it's got to be too much for one young person with her own life to think about.
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oh, a little 190 proof everclear on occasion. i wish i were joking but im not..
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iiiit'll work. youre welcome..
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Thanks for the response, Captain. :) As soon as I began thinking in that vein, I felt weight lift from my shoulders. You are right; I can't be holding myself responsible for her moods or temperament. I am not a counselor or an aide -- just a watchman. It's not right to let her emotions towards me affect me at all -- especially because I can't change either them or the person who has them. My aunt's emotions are something my aunt has to learn how to cope with experiencing -- not me. I can only do my best to guard my charge. :) Very eye opening -- definitely thinking of this when I feel in a pinch!
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liz, you cannot make her happy and you cant make her feel better. i survived dementia care for my mother until the phsycotic end. i had to think of myself as just a night watchman at a loony bin. cant heal anyone, cant win an argument with them, cant taze them. i just make sure theyre not hurting themselves. i have empathy and love but i dont have a magic wand. please try the night watchman mindset. it was the turning point in my exasperating endeavor.
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Thank you very much, everyone, for your responses. :) Sorry I have not been to this thread in a long time; I am learning that lots of things hit you fast and hard in life, and I had to juggle them for a while.
While things over here are generally okay, I frequently fear that my aunt is becoming progressively more distrustful of me. But, I don't think this is because of dementia. Instead, I believe it is just because she has a very controlling personality, and because I am very young to her. She is very irritable, and sometimes she accuses me of things I haven't done, especially lying. When there has been a misunderstanding, she often talks over my explanation or refuses to hear what I have to say. She does not treat me like a capable adult sometimes, and sometimes seems to think that I "wind her up" on purpose. My family says that is isn't anything personal and that this is probably how she has always been, but it is still hurtful to me and not something I have ever dealt with before.
I generally keep my distance, but when even the smallest of things could become an argument which could end up in accusations and further distrust -- the environment becomes increasingly stressful and I have no sway in trying to convince her otherwise of anything in her mind, in large part because I am young.
What is the most sensible way to deal with this kind of personality in someone as old and emotional as my great aunt?
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Bizz - What an interesting gap year. I would look into finding day activities for her so that at least once a week she is either being picked up or you drive her to an adult day care center.

Every city/county in the US is in a COG - council of governments. The COG get federal funds that the city's match up to provide for a co-ordination of services. The "Area on Aging" or "Area Council on Aging" will be in the COG in your area. They should have a website that shows senior services and activities. Find some that sound good for her and get her signed up. I'd start with 1 one day a week. My mom had 3 different "sites" when she was in her 80's and then went to 2 sites in her 90's. One a van picked her up, the others she drove to. Both were church sites with a full kitchen. The routine was an activity (think cub scout level stuff), then lunch then a speaker or some kind of wellness check. Now realize, she is going to hate it and complain about the food, the people...yada..yada... but really she is going to do that no matter what so this is a new & different distraction for her (& you!). The cost for lunch is modest - usually under $ 5.00. All this done so when you leave she is set up & used to going.

On the new meds, really really critical that she get the meds at the same time of the day. Most of the antidepressants need to build up to a certain titer in their bodies before they fully take effect. Could be as long a 6 weeks. If they are off on time of meds, it can make them uneven emotionally. So this is very important. If she complains about the taste, some meds you can crush and mix with yogurt or ice cream. If you do this make sure this works for the drug and keep the yogurt small so that she eats it all and gets all the meds.

take advantage of everyhting for seniors & or handicapped you can....get a handicapped parking sticker, senior meal delivery service, senior discounts on city services. A lifeline type of service. Getting her finances to be on-line and still done by mail, so that in the future when you are gone, family can go-online to see what she is spending on & if there are odd things happening. Alot of these things need a quick mind able bodied person to go to apply for and get done. If you do these now, then when you leave she is used to having a twice a week meal delivery, or once a week pickup to day care or parking in the handicapped zone. You can get a "portable" handicapped sticker so that it can move from car to car so whomever is taking her someplace can hang it.

Who is her DPOA & MPOA? At your age, you likely can't be either. But I'd suggest you be a co-MPOA so that you can go with her to all her medical appointments and sit in the room with her and take notes. MPOA forms you can download - they are pretty routinely the same for all states.

If she is on the cusp of dementia, you should start making notes. It will be helpful to her doc's to figure out what type of dementia she has - they are not all the same. But with almost all the dementia's, they all start saying people are stealing from them and you will be the one who is doing it. They can be quite convincing at this too. So be on the watch for this. Good luck and take time for yourself too.
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Thanks for the reply, StandingAlone. My family has discussed nursing homes in case things go downhill at any time. We also have a clear understanding of what we feel can be handled and what can't. My aunt usually rests and watches TV each day, and so I do often have a lot of time to myself, which I have been using to complete college applications as well as unwind whenever I need. For the remaining time I have here, I would just like to be as well informed as I can possibly be to do my job as well as I can do it.
My aunt has just recently started taking antidepressants prescribed by her doctor, with hope to soon see a progressive improvement of her mood. I usually do try to create distance when we have a disagreement to cool off, and it usually works, so thank you for this advice as I recognize its value. :)
Thank you for the good wishes and the concern, it means a lot to me that I was able to reach out to this community for input in the first. Many are surprised at me for taking care of my aunt, but we are both doing well, and everyone in my family is optimistic for the future. For good reason, too, as my aunt is a trooper and she is recovering very well and so quickly, she might as well be thirty years younger :)
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In other words, if your aunt declines, don't allow your family to push you into this job if it becomes full time...they need to handle this, not you...
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BI, what happens when your aunt really gets worse? She's not going to get younger. She will require a whole lot of help eventually...then what? Your family needs to start thinking about that, especially if it gets to the point where she CAN'T be alone anymore, and that day is coming...
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Think about everything Perseverance said...

I commend you for taking this on at such a young age. Most people your age couldn't handle the responsibility. It's good of you to step up to the plate, but you need to know exactly what it is you've decided to take on. If your aunt's health declines, which is a distinct probability at her age, you could be looking at years of care giving. This job is the hardest one you'll ever take on. Get help. Get a back up team in place now. I personally think that you're too young to have this kind of load on your shoulders. The best advice I can give you is to get as much help as you can possibly gather around you, get compensation in writing, and make damn sure that you get plenty of time off to take care of yourself. I can't stress the importance of that. Get out, get away, go do things young people your age do. This job can become absolutely overwhelming, especially if you're taking it on alone. So, don't do that.

You can't do much about a patient's moods. Some people are better patients than others. Some smile and are a joy to be around, some are demons from hell that will drive you mad, and everything in between, just depends on the person. Your aunt might need an anti depressant. When you feel yourself going into a pissy mood, then that's your signal that you need a break. Sometimes you have to walk away from the patient and go chill for half an hour. Lose any guilt if you feel the need to get away often after awhile...just make sure you have a team around you that will allow you that time. Without it, the stress can become too much.
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Thanks for the reply, Perserverance. It is only a temporary arrangement; I am staying with her until she is recovered enough to maintain her own. By this point, she is self-sufficient for the most part. She is mobile on a cane and a walker. I am mostly here to monitor her recovery and make sure she doesn't try to do anything that might hinder it. (She is very headstrong.) My family is either very busy or live a ways off, so it would be very inconvenient for them to check in on her after such a big surgery all the time. I do not yet work and am taking a gap year for college. Relatives check in on us about once each week. I short, I have no other obligations besides helping her, and I would like to do the best job that I can -- hence my question. :)
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What type of compensation do you receive? What diagnoses does your aunt have? Is she able to walk? In a wheelchair? Primarily in bed? What does your work week look like? Who cares for her on your days/times off? Were you ever close to your aunt? Where are her children and why don't they care for her ?

You've taken on a HUGE responsibility. Quite frankly, I venture to say, too much. Do you have any plans for college?
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