Caring for a loved one is a challenge that faces many Northlanders.
One of the most widespread situations involves “sandwich” generation adults who still have children at home and then need to care for a parent or other older adult.
Tri-County Mental Health Services Older Adult Educator Becky Franklin recently talked about the many issues at a Northland Caregiver Support Group meeting.
Franklin said one of the first needs is to recognize that everyone involved is facing some kind of grief over lost plans, expectations and hopes. “The concept of change is difficult,” she said. “We don’t think of change with older adults, and everyone involved is also facing dramatic change in their lives that must be dealt with.”
Franklin said one of the most important strategies is simply getting out. Caregivers must schedule time for themselves and older adults should seek outlets such as community centers and programs for socializing with other older adults.
“There are opportunities, although they tend to be scattered,” Franklin said. “But getting out is important. When we are alone with our thoughts, it tends to magnify the negative. It’s not that they don’t exist when you’re out, but they take on a different perspective and it can be very helpful to realize others are dealing with some of the same things.”
The dialog was made to order for Kelly Warren of Kearney, whose house is also home for her daughter and her 90-year-old mother-in-law. She enjoys accompanying her mother-in-law to a local senior program where she interacts with other caregivers and learns strategies for both. “It’s therapy for her but it’s also therapy for me,” she said.
Caregivers should be conscious of how a new situation impacts everyone in the home. Warren said her daughter faced challenge because she had to give up a room. “We got a puppy,” she noted. “It doesn’t make up for the room, but it helps.”
Franklin said many underestimate the stresses of care giving. “It’s a full-time pull,” she said. “There can be so much guilt in the caregiver roll, but it’s not correlated to how much you actually give. A big key is learning how to keep that balance.”
The Northland Caregiver Support Group for those who serve older adults will meet the first Monday of each month from 4-5 p.m. at Oak Pointe of Kearney, 200 Meadowbrook Drive, Kearney, Mo, 64060. Interested persons from throughout the Northland are welcome.