Four Tips for the Accidental Caregiver

by Charlotte Bishop

Who becomes a caregiver by accident? In geriatric care management I often am asked to intervene in a situation where an aging person has been relying on the favors of friends and neighbors for a time, but they may have progressed to the point that more comprehensive caregiving may be needed.

A case in point is an 85-year-old woman I know who has two loving children, but they live some distance from mom. One is nearly 650 miles away and the other nearly 800 miles away. And both have work and family obligations in their own homes. This is not the type of situation where the kids can be counted on to pick up some groceries on the way home from work or to help with minor repairs around the apartment on the weekend. What happened in this particular woman’s case is that she had the good fortune of many friends or neighbors who would step up for that occasional errand or ride to the store but eventually they just could not be everything that the older individual needed. They had become accidental caregivers.

An accidental caregiver almost always is well-intentioned, but they become overwhelmed with the growing demands that an aging individual represents. If you have a situation in which you are beginning to feel over-taxed or stressed by the increasing requirements of the person you have been helping, consider the following.

    1. You need to speak to family members of the elder whom you have been helping. If they live at distance (distance is not always measured in miles), they may not even know how dependent mom or dad has become. Let them know the real situation, but try to do it when they are in town so that you can personally respond more readily to their feelings…one of which may be guilt.
    1. As you speak with the family or other persons in the elder’s orbit, offer some suggestions. One resource is the association that represents geriatric care managers. They even have a care finder to help geographically find a resource – Care Manager.
    1. If the elder for whom you are helping does not have family, check with the local council on aging or elder advocate who may be in the employ of the city, county or state. Do not keep going it alone.
  1. If the older person whom you have been helping reacts to any changes with hostility or anger, do not take it personally. They may be fiercely independent and in some denial about the extent to which they have become dependent. Angry outbursts also can be a sign of depression, and that also can be your cue to look for professional help or assistance from the elder’s primary care provider.

I have mentioned in the past that it takes a village to care for an elder, so consider this a way to enlist the help of the others in your village to support your elder’s and your own quality of life.

We are the professionals who help families who are caring for older adults (geriatric care management) or others with special needs in Illinois. Our professional geriatric care managers and special needs case managers can be your eyes and ears when you simply cannot. You can count on us to help you manage both your care-giving responsibilities, and those of your family and your work that cannot be ignored…or postponed. Some of our clients refer to us as their Sister in ChicagoSM.

Find services and web sites which can help you as a caregiver to an older adult or someone with special needs on our Resources page: http://www.creativecasemanagement.com/resources.aspx. Get helpful advice and support from Charlotte Bishop on her blog page: http://www.creativecasemanagement.com/blog.aspx.

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One Response to “Four Tips for the Accidental Caregiver”

  1. Susie,

    I been through this personally. Good advise and suggestions.

    Carol

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