Rick Lauber is the author of The Successful Caregiver’s Guide and Caregiver’s Guide for Canadians, Volunteer Board of Directors member (Alberta Caregivers Association) and former co-caregiver. Read his fantastic perspective on caregiving over all, as well as on men and caregiving.
With what do you struggle? Time management proved to be a major challenge for me when I was a working caregiver. I was trying to balance my responsibilities for my parents along with the responsibilities of my job. Although I reduced my working hours to part-time (so as to allow more time to help and support my parents), this reduced my income and I continued to focus on too many things. Many days I was worried that the phone would ring meaning I would have to dash away to tend to a caregiving emergency (in this case, would my employer understand?). I am not an effective multi-tasker – in fact, I believe that the more a person tries to get done, the less he actually gets done.
I also struggled with societal expectations – many in my own personal and professional circles found it hard to believe I had become a caregiver. Typically, women more frequently assume the role of caregiver; however, a man can provide help and support as well. And more men are stepping forward to become caregivers – as explained in the Caregiving in the U.S. 2015 report (released by the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP), 40 percent of American caregivers are male. Men and women care (and respond to caring) differently and all contributions are important and of value. Men and women care differently and all contributions are important and of value –@cdngaregiver Click To Tweet
What one thing do you wish you had more time for? I often wished I had had more personal time. As a working caregiver, it seemed like I was constantly “on-call” and rarely had a moment to myself. I felt torn between my own caregiving and working responsibilities and taking time for myself seemed like a selfish thing to do when I was caring for my parents but it did offer great benefits.
With what do you wish you had more help? Finding more caregiving help. While there are many services and resources available to assist caregivers, these caregivers often are overwhelmed and don’t know where to start and what to ask. I also wished that my employer would have been more sympathetic to my caregiving needs and allowed me a bit more scheduling freedom. When you feel under appreciated by your employer and tied to your desk, you can become resentful and frustrated as an employee. Good employees often leave their jobs when they feel not valued.
Where do you find support? One exceptionally helpful avenue for my family was an adult day program. Offered through a local hospital, this proved to be a good option for my father (who, at that time, had advancing Alzheimer’s disease). Knowing that professional staff were caring for Dad in a safe and supportive environment reduced my own stress levels and allowed me more time to concentrate on my own job. The local chapter of the Alzheimer’s Society also proved to be useful with their resource library, support groups, and referrals to outside service providers. I also took part in a research study where more experienced and novice caregivers were matched. Through regular phone calls with my caregiving “partner”, I could ask questions, learn what to expect as Dad’s condition progressed, and/or simply vent.
What is your best habit? Likely my diligence. If there is a job (no matter how onerous …) that needs to be done, I can usually get it done. I remember when my sisters and I applied for Trusteeship and Guardianship for my father. My sisters began dealing with the mountain of paperwork required and the job soon fell to me to complete.
If you knew then, what you know now… I would make much more of a concerted effort to get to know my parents before they passed away. While Mom and Dad always provided for their children, they were always very private and rarely spoke of their own upbringings, families, heroes/heroines, and likes/dislikes. Now that they are gone, I will never have these questions answered and this leads to tremendous regret. I would also reach out for more help – caregiving is not a job to undertake independently. Ask for help. #Caregiving is not a job to undertake independently - @cdncaregiver Click To Tweet
What would you like to see employers do more of to help caregivers? Understand and allow working caregivers the flexibility they require during a very difficult time. Ideas could include paid leave, flex-time, working from home, or reduced hours. Working caregivers could also greatly benefit from job stability – meaning if they must leave their positions to tend to caregiving matters, they are guaranteed their positions back (at equal responsibility and pay levels). With my living in Canada, I am familiar with this country’s Compassionate Care Benefits – these are paid to persons who have to be away from work temporarily to help care for an ill family member (who is at a significant risk of death within 26 weeks). Having financial support of this nature can make things dramatically easier for working caregivers.
What would you like to see medical professionals do more of to support caregivers? While medical professionals can do wonderful work with ailing and aging seniors, they could be more patient with family caregivers. Doctors and nurses will have years of experience behind them while family caregivers are often novices with knowing how to help a parent and where to find this help. In addition to not knowing where to turn to for help themselves, family caregivers will often be emotionally distressed trying to deal with the decline (and forthcoming loss) of their loved one. Watching a loved one slip away from you without being able to help can be immensely disturbing … I often explain that I lost my father twice (once when he forgot who I was and once again when he passed away).
Who are your heroines? I have always admired my own mother. She was never one to back down from a challenge and always fought for the underdog and was recognized for her efforts. Mom wasn’t always serious though – she did know how to enjoy life and laugh.
What do you admire in/about other caregivers? Persistence. Caregiving is not always easy and can include long days and sleepless nights. Caregivers who can – and do – reach out for further assistance are also to be admired.
Caregiving: a blessing or a burden? While many would consider caregiving a burden, I consider it a blessing. As I learned throughout the process, there are many joys involved – I learned more about my parents and my own abilities, built better relationships with my parents and my sisters, became more organized and increased my self-confidence. Caregiving can open both personal and professional doors – without having helped my own aging parents