5 Common Caregiving Mistakes
And How to Avoid Them
Caregiving by nature requires a lot of heavy lifting - staying on top keeping the house clean, making sure your caree is well taken care of with some level of independence, staying organized with medications and doctor appointments, and more. It can be a lot to handle and is perfectly natural to make mistakes.
Because of the complexity of caregiving, we asked fellow professional, personal, and in-home caregivers mistakes they've made and how to avoid them so you can prepare yourself and learn from the mistakes of others rather than the alternative.
1. Overlooking Suspected Elderly Exploitation
Unfortunately, there are people in the world that seek out elderly persons to exploit them financially. Elderly financial exploitation accounts for 62.5% of elder abuse cases, making it the leading form of elder abuse. As an elderly caregiver, you may be focused mostly on the health and safety of your caree.
"Caregivers often get so focused on the health and safety of the client; they can easily miss the elderly exploitation warning signs," says Genny Ernst of Gulf Shore Private Home Care.
Focusing on every aspect of caregiving at times is not possible. Here's how you can ensure that your caree is safe from financial fraud:
Keep Track of Emails, Phone Calls, and Financial Activity
A significant way that the elderly are targeted is via phone and email scams. "I know phone, and email scams target the elderly, so I check on that as well. I also follow up with the family or the caree's Power of Attorney to see if there are any sudden or suspicious changes in accounts," Genny Explains. Simple financial check-ins and consistent communication with your caree regarding their finances can serve as a safeguard from this type of fraud.
A way of keeping track of your caree's financial fraud is by asking them about any monetary gifts, charities, or loans they may be involved in. If they are participating, do some research on the activity and the person/company receiving the money. Ask them about any people/companies that may have their social security number and why. That way, you can keep track of who has it and pinpoint the culprit should someone use it without permission.
If you're unable to keep track of finances for your caree, try reaching out to a close friend or relative for help. You can also hire a financial professional whose sole purpose is to keep track of client finances if you have the means of doing so.
Report Any Elderly Exploitation
If you notice any elderly exploitation occurring, it's always best to report it to the appropriate authority. Check if your state has an elderly abuse hotline. These types of organizations specialize in this type of fraud and have the resources of catching the person(s) acting out the fraudulent activity.
Special thanks to Genny Ernst of Gulf Shore Private Home Care. Genny is the owner of Gulf Shore Private Home Care with over 19 years of nursing experience. Learn more about Genny and her company at https://Gulfshorprivatehomecare.com.
2. Denial of Health Issues
When caring for someone with health issues, you're often called to face them head-on, which is not an easy task. It can be easier to deny any symptoms of health problems rather than facing them and searching for a solution.
Jackie Benardout explains her experience with this mistake, "I am a carer for an elderly relative who is 94 and has dementia, and I have a disability (mobility issues) myself. In the beginning, I was in denial about some of the symptoms that dementia showed, and then it became apparent to me what I had to do."
Facing health complications, especially mental health, can put caregivers in an awkward position. Conditions such as dementia can cause patients to lack logic and act out of their healthy behaviors, which seems impossible to handle at first. Here's what you can do when handling health issues:
Practice Patience and Acceptance
Major health complications and conditions can put caregivers under challenging positions in which they're not comfortable handling. The best way to combat this is by practicing patience and acceptance.
"I learned that I had to have patience, and not ask questions that would frustrate and confuse her, if she didn't know what to say, and couldn't remember," Jackie continued to explain. "There was no point disagreeing with any answers that she gave. I learned to stay positive and enjoy parts of her personality, which were the good parts that hadn't changed at all."
Accepting your caree for themselves allows you to release any frustration you feel. While practicing patience gives you the strength to work through the imperfections that come with a major health condition. You begin to find your communication skills improve over time as you learn how to handle your caree and their way of speaking and doing things.
Get to Know Your Caree and Their Condition
Another way of avoiding this mistake is by getting to know your caree and their situation. Do some in-depth research on their condition(s) to understand their causes better, the impact it has on them, and what helps in easing discomfort. The more effectively you can put yourself in their shoes, the easier it will be for you to relate to them and understand their needs. An added tip is reaching out to others who have dealt with specific health conditions in others. They may have some first-hand advice on ways to make things easier.
Special thanks to Jackie Benardout for her advice. Jackie is the founder of Best Mobility Aids. You can learn more about her and her business at https://bestmobilityaids.com
3. Not Taking Care of Your Physical Health
Day-to-day caregiving often requires a lot of physical requirements while helping your caree get in and out of bed and assisting them in moving around. These types of actions can place a physical strain on your body if neglected.
"One of the mistakes I made while caring for my mom was lifting her without using a back brace. She could not stand by herself and needed to be lifted to do common routines," explains James Colozzo. "She was in the bathroom, and when she was finished, I went to lift her to bring her to the bed. When I lifted, I felt warm fluid squirt on the right side of the lower back area and then immediate pain."
If you're the sole person caring for your caree, you know that if you are unable to help them physically, their care may become neglected. Try these tips for making sure your physical health is not compromised:
Prepare Yourself with the Right Tools
Preparing yourself with the right tools to help is a great way to reduce your chances of injury.
"I found an old back brace, and I put it on my back so I would be able to lift her. We were by ourselves and it took over two hours to get her back in bed. It was extremely painful. I went to the doctor and he said that I had an inflamed disc and I needed to stop lifting to let my back heal and prescribed medication for the inflammation. I also purchased a lifting brace and wore it every time I lifted my mom. I lifted her as much as twenty times a day and never hurt my back again."
Tools like back braces can make a significant difference in reducing your chances of injury and the strain that caregiving puts on your body. It's also essential you implement physical fitness such as stretching and cardio into your daily routine.
Thanks to James Colozzo for his words of wisdom in regards to caregiving. James is the co-author of "You Got To Do What You Got To Do: My Experience As A Caregiver Taking Care Of My Parents For Over Twenty Years." You can learn more about James at www.takingcareofaparent.com
4. Not Taking Time for Caregiver Self-Development and Training
The day-to-day life of a caregiver can become routine. Once you develop a set of daily habits and rituals, you can become comfortable. By nature, caregiving requires continuous learning. There are many facets to caregiving, requiring caregivers to develop a hefty appetite for learning.
"It is given that caregiving may require your patience, hard work, and expertise. However, most caregivers miss realizing how important it is to take training and short courses for their development," explains Bunny Dachs. "Some training and seminars are being conducted to update and refresh caregivers of the new processes and skills needed in caregiving. Developing oneself is a must; this will make you more competent and updated on the current updates in health and caregiving."
We're fortunate to live in a time in which caregiving courses, resources, and classes are in abundance. Senior Link has compiled a list of their top 50 courses and training for caregivers. Focus on bettering yourself each day. Not only will you feel more optimistic about caregiving, but your caree will benefit significantly from improved care.
Thanks to Bunny Dachs for her words on caregiver self-development. Bunny is the owner of Bunny's Home Care. You can learn more about her at https://bunnyshomecare.com
5. Neglecting Their Own Personal Time
Caregiving can be a full-time job, depending on the circumstances. Because of the high demand and needs that come with the role, many caregivers neglect their own personal life and wellbeing. Neglect leads to the infamous "caregiver burnout," which can cause an assortment of mental health issues.
"Caregivers often excel at caring for others, but it's just as important to take the time to care for yourself. This means setting aside personal time for your own activities and hobbies. And yes, this means sometimes saying "no" to requests for help and asking for friends or outside help to lend a hand when you need a break," says Meg Marrs.
"It can be tragic to see skilled caregivers completely neglect themselves. Never forget that you can't help others without helping yourself too! It's also important (in my opinion) for caregivers to attend therapy, especially when caring for family members.
Unfortunately, it's not unusual for relatives to push boundaries and ask too much from family caregivers. A therapist can serve as an excellent source to vent frustration and get assistance setting healthy boundaries to ensure everyone is taken care of!"
Take time for your own personal life, hobbies, and wellbeing. Mark specific dates/times on your calendar devoted to your personal time, so this doesn't go unattended. This will ensure you have time to reset, reenergize, and do things that benefit you and not just others.
Another essential self-care best practice is to rest, eat right, and walk away for a moment.
"If we're not good to ourselves, we'll be no good to anyone else. Getting adequate rest, eating properly, and knowing when to walk away for a moment to breathe is very important." - Reneé Sunday, M.D.
Practicing self-care as a caregiver is vital to maintaining your health and wellness. It's easy to forget this when your caregiver "to do" list is piled high. When you're able to plan out your self-care, caregiving becomes much more manageable.
Megg Marrs helped contribute to this section. She is the owner of Safer Senior Care, a website that offers caregiving tips and gear recommendations for elderly individuals and their caregivers.
The life of a caregiver is full of to-do lists, doctor visits, and daily checklists. Your role is of great importance. It's perfectly normal to feel overwhelmed and make mistakes. Just remember these tips and your role as a caregiver will become much more manageable:
- Keep open communication and track your caree's financial activity
- Practice patience and acceptance with health conditions
- Study and get to know your caree's health conditions
- Use the proper tools to help your caree physically
- Practice physical exercise and stretching
- Continuously develop your caregiver skills with courses and training
- Be sure to schedule personal time to do things that benefit your wellbeing
What tips did you find to be the most helpful? Are there any caregiving mistakes or tips that we missed? Be sure to comment below and let us know!
About the Author
Brandon Landgraf is the Digital Marketing Manager for Carex Health Brands. He finds passion and fulfillment in creating content that enhances, improves, and enlivens others' quality of life. All of his written work is formulated to not only offer essential advice and tips but back it with proven studies and experts. His mission is to connect with readers and provide steps to make their lives better.
You can connect with him on LinkedIn here.
About Carex Health Brands
Carex is your one-stop shop for home medical equipment and for products that assist caregivers with providing the best possible support and care for their loved ones. Carex Health Brands has been the branded leader in in-home, self-care medical products for over 35 years. Our goal is to improve the lives of our customers by bring them quality products that bring dignity back to their lives. With our three nationally distributed brands, Carex Health Brands serves national, regional and independent food, drug and mass retailers along with wholesalers, distributors and medical dealers.
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