It is not a maid, huh? Just what the heck is a "caregiver," and how can they help my elderly loved one and my family? How might I need a caregiver in the decades ahead?
These days, the term caregiver is being batted around the world. In Malaysia, where I live, it is particularly true as this small tropical paradise population begins to age.
There are now millions of people over 65 among us, and they are living longer, with more of them to come. But how to care for them once they can no longer manage on their own?
Don't count on the government, that's for sure. Malaysia is behind most of the world, let alone in Asia. Aging populations in the United States, Canada, in Europe, and most of the world face the same aging problem and the need for caregiving.
A caregiver is a trained professional who specifically takes care of older adults, most often in the elderly's person's home or the family's home. So, let's look at when you might need a caregiver and what they can offer.
When Might You Need a Caregiver?
There are several ways you might require a caregiver:
- You might need a caregiver for short periods, on an as-needed basis, to help maintain the senior's independence, if an existing caregiver is on leave, someone needs help with a medical visit, or the senior's children need to travel or are away from home. There are many reasons, as you can imagine.
- You could need a caregiver for extended time-periods, such as a few hours a day each week, or a few weeks or more, or care to help with recurring tasks each week or each month.
- As your needs progress, your care might be around-the-clock care for seniors who are not mobile or have chronic illnesses.
What Can Home Caregivers Offer?
Caregivers provide help with daily activities for an older person who could be "slowing down" and needs some support at home. The objective is to maintain independence for the senior in his or her own home environment. Being in familiar surroundings is critical for elderly happiness.
A caregiver can help provide an existing caregiver a break. This is called "respite care." Caregiving is hard work and often emotional work. Giving a caregiver a break is a great way to let them "recharge," while bringing in someone for a day or two (or longer) to help out. Respite care allows the primary caregiver to address personal issues, visit friends or family, or have a holiday.
When a spouse dies, it can be a tough time for the senior and family. The surviving spouse will be alone now and may need help around the clock, or could just feel lonely, or both. Adult children perhaps are not prepared or able to address this situation, and home caregivers can help and provide the needed services.
If someone is recovering from an illness at home, it is an excellent time to bring in a caregiver to help someone until they can manage independently. This care helps to maintain their sense of independence, and it helps get them through a critical post-illness period.
When someone is near the end of their life, it brings stress and sadness for everyone. It is an important and challenging time for both the individual and their family. A home caregiver can assist hospice nurses and other medical professionals with things like running errands, ensuring the patient is never alone, and helping the family with everyday needs that they may be incapable of handling at the moment.
If someone is facing a chronic or long-term illness, caregivers are particularly important. Besides handling daily activities, a caregiver can help manage medication compliance, bathing, toileting, and other regular activities-of-daily living that pose unique challenges for patients. A caregiver for a chronic patient can help ease their mind and ensure they are comfortable at home.
Making the Decision
Bringing a caregiver, generally a stranger, into your home or that of a loved one, is not an easy decision. Take your time with this decision. Discuss the options with your family members and talk to the elderly person who needs care.
Be sure to vet caregivers carefully. Just because someone is a friend, don't assume they know about caregiving or your family situation. In fact, talk to a professional caregiving organization--several of them exist today--and learn more.
About the Author
Andrew Mastrandonas, Co-founder & CEO of Pillar (www.pillarcare.com), Asia’s leading home care company. He is also Director of JPE Group, Asia's Most Comprehensive Care, Recovery & Senior Living Solutions organization. For more information please visit www.jpecare.com. This article was reviewed by Dr Lim Geng Yan (M.D).
Contributor since June 16th, 2019
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