Sleep Deprived Family Caregiver (Photo credit: soylentgreen23)
Family caregivers may be a spouse taking care of their husband or wife, or adult children caring for their parent(s). Often times there is a debilitating illness such as Alzheimer’s Disease, dementia, disability due to stroke, cancer, multiple sclerosis, physical handicaps and many other conditions.
The family caregiver may feel overwhelmed at times due to physical and mental stress, sleep deprivation, depression and even physical injury may result such as back injury. The family caregiver needs to remember to take care of themselves too, for the sake of their own health and if they get sick, who will take care of their loved one. Aids for daily living can help save the caregiver time and protect their back, frequently allowing the individual with a medical condition to function more independently.
1. Take care of YOUR back. Transfers from bed or wheelchair can require lifting, giving the caregiver an aching back at the least, and the possibility of a back injury. Checkout transfer boards and gait belts for safer transfers
2. Sleep deprivation. This is a big one. If your loved one has Alzheimer’s Disease or dementia, there may be frequent night awakenings causing the caregiver to be sleep deprived. When sleep deprived you are harming your own health, also possibly causing you to be more irritable and even to be more likely to make mistakes with medications, or have an accident while driving a vehicle. Consider getting them out in the sunlight during the day, weather permitting, for a walk, or even just sitting on the porch or in the yard, this helps reset their Circadian clock and helps them feel more tired for a better night’s sleep, which will help you get a better night’s sleep.
3. Getting Ready for Bed. If getting your loved one ready for bed is difficult, then start earlier in the evening or even in the afternoon with the bathing and getting into the night clothes. This way you will be less tired and more able to handle difficult situations.
4. Assistive Clothing. If getting your family member dressed and undressed is difficult consider assistive clothing – this is clothing designed to be easy-on-easy-off.
5. Difficulty Getting To Sleep. Getting to sleep can be difficult if there hasn’t been much activity during the day or if an Alzheimer’s patient. Play a soothing and restful CD or tape of rain, ocean waves or a brook to help lull your loved one to sleep, or help quiet them if agitated.
6. Have a routine. This keeps the day running more smoothly and everyone knows what to expect
7. Ask family and friends for help. Ask if they could occasionally take over for night duty once in awhile, bring over a meal, take over for a couple of hours once in a while so you can run a personal errand or just come over for a visit to socialize and give you a mental break. Tell them, they probably don’t know what you need – don’t be afraid to ask.
8. Join a support group if only on-line. This way you will have people sharing their experiences as caregivers and you will have people who understand what you are going through.
9. Flu-Shots. Make sure both you and your loved one get a flu shot every fall – this will help prevent both you and them from a hospitalization. There is a new influenza shot called FluZone High Dose which is stronger and may be better for those 65+, ask your doctor.
10. Check out your local community organizations. Ask what kind of help is available locally. Also talk to a social worker – ask the doc to recommend one. See what help is available through your local senior center.
11. Take advantage of modern technology. There are inexpensive warning notification products available to let you know if your loved one with dementia has wandered into an unsecure area or left the house.
12. Feel more secure. If there is a risk of falling out of bed consider buying adult safety bed rails. Alzheimer’s and dementia patients may be at a higher risk. But, sometimes certain medications can cause “night terrors” which may cause them to fall out of bed also. Be sure there isn’t enough room for head entrapment, or too much space between the rail and bed that would allow body entrapment.
13. Control the Stress. If your loved one is hard of hearing and the tv is turned up really loud all day causing you or others in the household stress, consider getting your loved one a hearing aid, or at least a tv amplifying system with headphones that allows them to hear the tv at the volume they need, yet keeps the rest of the house or apartment quiet.
14. Medications. If there are a lot of prescribed medications, consider wearing an alarm watch or other reminder system that gives an alarm sound or vibrates to give you the reminders you need. There are also pill containers that lock and have reminder alarms, or just set an alarm clock for the time of the next medication dose.
15. Make it easy on yourself. If your loved one has early Alzheimer’s Disease, Dementia or just memory issues due to age and has trouble with the television such as changing the channel, or volume control and requires your assistance frequently during the day, consider tv remotes designed specifically to be senior friendly and very easy to use. Two very easy brands are Flipper and Doro 321rc. There are probably other brands available if you look. This may keep you from having to manage the tv frequently during the day, saving you time and frustration.