Q: I have been taking care of a family member for a while. I am worried we are not doing enough. Where can I turn to get information and maybe help with the care?
A: First, I always say "thank you" to all caregivers. You are making the life of someone else better.
We have so many seniors in our community who are able to stay at home through the help of family, friends and neighbors. I also want to reinforce asking for help whenever you feel you need it. For anyone who has provided care for another person, you know how draining it can be at times. It is rewarding, but it can be difficult. Don't be afraid to reach out for help.
Many times throughout our lives we face significant changes: graduations, first jobs, first cars, marriage, babies, so many other things. Most of these are celebrated and these celebrations offer opportunities for others to "share" their expertise. When it comes to caring for a family member, we don't get this shower of support. It is usually a gradual change in expectations and responsibilities. This gradual change can lead up to a significant amount of time and energy. Don't let this overwhelm you. I say get help early and often.
There are many resources in our area. It is simply a matter of looking for the help you need and then letting them help.
A resource I would offer is NY Connects. NY Connects is a statewide initiative that provides one number/one source for all residents of New York state, to call to get resources related to Human Services and many other items of concerns. Chautauqua County NY Connects is staffed by individuals, who work with you to find resources and agencies that can help in your situation. This staff does not just have answers for senior issues, but issues from birth to death. NY Connects' phone number is 753-4582.
Another resource many individuals reach out to is their church family or church pastor. This group may have help available or ideas on where to turn for alternative services within our community. A church family is an extended family of sorts that is there to help when you need it.
There are also other agencies out there that can help.
Office For the Aging may have support services or referral services that you could use. They have information on entitlement programs to help financially as well as programs to help within the home both personally and on repairs.
Family Service of Chautauqua Region is also a good resource tool. They may have professionals who can help you through your situation.
Home Care Agencies could provide staff to help you in the home with daily chores. This may give you the extra helping hand you or your family member needs to stay at home.
Programs such as Senior Life Matters and others provide aides who are available to help with household chores, transportation, shopping and errands. This may help you manage you time and other tasks a little easier.
Adult Day Programs might offer an opportunity for your senior to get out of the home and socialize with others in a supervised setting. This may give you a needed break, but more importantly it adds "quality" to their days. Many programs provide transportation to and from the program.
Geriatric care managers, social workers and service coordinators may be useful to you as well. These professionals can offer objective opinions regarding service options, assessment of the whole situation, resolving family conflicts and providing piece of mind to long distance caregivers. These professionals usually specialize in working with seniors and their families to cope with their life situation. Our situations and life choices change as we age and sometimes we need help to get through those things.
Ask friends and co-workers for ideas. We often ask their advice about car repairs, favorite stores and favorite books. Don't be afraid to use them as a resource for this situation also. They may have some great ideas and experiences to share.
There is not a right or wrong way to provide for those we love and care for. As their needs change, your options also change. What works today may not work tomorrow. What fails today may work a month from now.
The important thing to remember is that you are doing your best and there is help out there for you. Reach out to get some help and it will make your situation even more successful. Reaching out to help is not a sign of failure. Reaching out is a sign of strength. You don't want your family member to need something when there is a solution out there. I know that as a caregiver, you helped others when they were in need. Let someone help you now when you need it. The old saying continues to be true: "Many hands make light work." Let others help you to be successful.
To contact Janell Sluga, GCMC with questions or concerns, please call 720-9797 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.