If you’re struggling with the stress and emotional toll of caregiving, you’re not alone. Over 40 million people in the U.S. provide care of some sort or another to a family member in need, often an aging parent over 65. Care duties may include everything from transportation to appointments, to fixing meals, housecleaning, picking up prescriptions, even helping with dressing, toileting, and physical therapy.
The physical and financial toll on caregivers is great, as is the emotional one. In addition to bearing the responsibility of their loved one’s health and wellbeing, caregivers can often become isolated from friends or other family members who don’t pitch in and can experience frequent anxiety or stress over their loved one’s safety. Aging parents with dementia and diseases like Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s are at increased risk of falling, while family members with conditions like epilepsy (seizure disorder) or heart disease may be at risk of acute and sudden attacks.
When it comes to finding peace of mind, these tools and devices may be a caregiver’s saving grace:
Medical Alert Systems
If you want to make sure your loved one can get help in the event of an emergency like a fall, a medical alert system is your go-to solution. Medical alert systems can vary greatly – from pendants and medical alert bracelets your loved one wears to stationary telephones that seamless hook into their own phone line so they can push one button to access help.
The best medical alert systems will offer impressive features like GPS location tracking, two-way communication, water resistance, pagers for caregivers, and a long range to capture a signal in the entire house and surrounding outdoors. You can find a multitude of medical alert system offerings online or at your local pharmacy.
While equipment like grab bars, handrails, and mobility aids can go a long way in preventing falls in the home, the fact of the matter is that 1 in 4 seniors still experiences a fall, most often in and around the home. If your aging parent or loved one is at risk for falling, i.e. they have balance or mobility difficulties or they have conditions like Parkinson’s that make sitting and standing tricky, consider getting fall mats for the home.
Fall mats can lie on the floor by areas like the bed or sofa, where sitting and standing often happens. Not only can fall mats cushion the impact your loved one makes with the ground, but some even come with sensors that alert caregivers when a fall happens.
Want to keep an eye on your loved one when you’re not in the room? Technological advancements have made that easier than ever with digital baby monitors that can sync to your mobile device (like an iPhone) to provide real-time video and sound feeds.
Typically easy to install and sync to your phone or computer, digital baby monitors also offer unique features like the ability to invite other caregivers (and family) to view the feed, as well as ways to post pictures and video to social media to share with your loved one’s friends and family. Look for digital baby monitors online or at your local big box store.
Medical Device Kits
If your loved one is medically complex and feeling under the weather, few things can ease a worried caregivers mind like knowing they don’t need to run to ER right away. Having basic medical tools on hand to check vitals on your loved one can offer you a huge sigh of relief. For example, knowing that blood pressure is stable and oxygen levels are good when you’re loved one is dealing with a cold or a persistent cough can help you relax a little, and make calmer decisions regarding whether to give them medicine, call the doctor, etc.
Simple tools like a pulse oximeter, blood pressure monitor, and thermometer can be found at your local pharmacy or online. Keep them handy in times of concern and don’t be afraid to use them – just remember to record the data so you can share it with your loved one’s doctor.
Sometimes peace of mind is just a click away. Forums and online support groups where other caregivers share their stories and experience can be a huge help in times of need. If you are having to decide whether to move your loved one to a nursing home, if you’re dealing with a difficult homecare agency, if you need advice about bedsores, if you simply need to vent, welcoming spaces like the CaregiverSpace community on facebook can be a fountain of support and answers.
By Nurse Susan