Guides smooth caregivers' path

Strategies, support help reduce burden on family

By Paris Achen, Columbian courts reporter

Published:

 

Resources for family caregivers

Caring for Your Loved One at Home, free four-week class for family caregivers; 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Fridays, Aug. 24 to Sept. 21, at PeaceHealth Memorial Health Center, 3400 Main St.

Powerful Tools for Caregiving, free six-week class for family caregivers; 2-4:30 p.m. Tuesdays, Nov. 6 to Dec. 11 at PeaceHealth Memorial Health Center, 3400 Main St.

Family Caregiver Support Program, free counseling, education, training, supplemental services and respite care (on sliding scale); 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Friday at Southwest Washington Agency on Aging and Disabilities, 201 N.E. 73rd St., Suite 201.

Annual Southwest Washington caregiver conference, 9 a.m.-3:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 27 at PeaceHealth Southwest Health Education Center, Northeast 92nd Avenue and Mill Plain Boulevard.

To register for any of these no-cost events or find out the 2013 schedule, call 360-694-8144. Out-of-home respite care is provided at no charge.

The Carebook:

A Workbook for Caregiver Peace of Mind is available for $12 at 888-846-7008.

Caring for an ailing husband with Parkinson's disease, diabetes and dementia puts a heavy burden on Barbara Markword, 69, of Vancouver, who herself needs the aid of a walker to get around.

"We have no children to help," Markword said. "I get very exhausted. I'd like to figure out a kind of plan of what to do when I need somebody to help me."

Family caregivers can often feel alone in the world, charged with difficult decisions for the care of a loved one who is dependent on them and their knowledge of the situation.

But there are strategies and resources to help reduce that burden, according to experts who gave a free three-hour workshop for family caregivers July 18 at Vancouver's PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center.

The workshop, sponsored by the Southwest Washington Agency on Aging and Disabilities, gave family caregivers an opportunity to ask questions about how to make difficult decisions for their loved ones, such as when to move them to a care facility, how to convince them to go, how to find help, what to do when a caregiver won't be available anymore and how to deal with the life-threatening stress that can be caused by extended caregiving.

"The love that's needed to be a caregiver -- it's bigger than any one of us," said Joyce Beedle, a registered nurse from Portland and author of "The Carebook: A Workbook for Caregiver Peace of Mind."

"I don't want there to be just one person," Beedle said. "A caregiver needs to say, 'I can't do it all. I'm taking volunteers.'"

Helpers can be other family members, friends or anyone who takes an interest in the person who needs care.

The Agency on Aging and Disabilities is another resource for caregivers who need help. The agency provides a variety of free or low-cost services through the Family Caregiver Support Program, including counseling, education, training, respite care and others.

Jumbled emotions

Caregivers experience "a wild ride" of emotions that have no orderly sequence, Beedle said. They hop around among denial, over-involvement, anger, guilt and acceptance.She recommended that all caregivers join support groups, where they can talk about those emotions and feel they're not alone.

The sobering reality is that many family caregivers, especially those who take on caregiving alone, face increased risk of depression and premature death, according to research. The stress of the job can cause some caregivers to die before their wards.

One 2004 study by the University of California's Department of Psychiatry found family caregiving can take as much as 10 years from a caregiver's life.

"My anxiety many early mornings is, at times I have a 52-year-old son; at times, I have a 10-year-old," said Bob Mayorga, 79, of Vancouver, who cares for his 52-year-old son with brain damage from a motorcycle accident. "What do I do? I can't leave him yet, and I'm asking the Almighty for more time. … How do I make sure he is O.K.?"

Beedle wrote the Carebook to address a worry common among caregivers: What happens to my loved one if I die first? She gave copies to the workshop's 61 participants.

The Carebook is a way to make sure a loved one has a continuum of care. The caregiver fills out the loved one's likes and dislikes, what calms him or her, how he or she met the love of their life; physical, mental and emotional issues and other details that would help a substitute caregiver provide the needed care. A caregiver could make such a book, but Beedle's prompts ask for details a caregiver might not think of documenting.

Care facilities

"How do you convince an elderly person to consider leaving their home?" asked a woman named Mary. Mary's 84-year-old mother has lived in the same house for 50 years.

Beedle suggested providing a slow transition if possible. She took her aunt to various assisted living centers just to have lunch. Eventually, when the aunt liked the food at a place and asked if she could go back there for lunch, the family moved her in for a one-month trial. That helped "convince" the aunt to move, she said.

Decision-making

A woman named Bonnie said her 70-year-old husband was diagnosed with dementia 13 years ago.

"Physically, he's great; mentally, he's not," she said. "When do I start making all of the decisions?"

"A general rule of thumb is, when someone says, 'When should I make all the decisions?' or, 'When should she be moved to a (care facility)?' the reason that pops into your head is most often that the time is now," Beedle said. "The living situation isn't quite right. If it's on your mind, the time is now."

Paris Achen: 360-735-4551; http://twitter.com/Col_Trends; http://facebook.com/ColTrends; paris.achen@columbian.com.