Seniors caring for seniors

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Today, it seems like more and more seniors are the soul caregivers of their aging parents, in-laws, or other aging family members, and many of these seniors are still working full-time jobs. That’s when it seems “aging gracefully” is unachievable. Don’t worry, there is help and a good day at the spa couldn’t hurt.

I’m a family caregiver, and we all love our aging parents and would give our lives for them, but as a good friend once told me, “we are all human.” That means, a caregiver gets tired and needs relief every now and again. We all like to think we are super-beings and can handle two houses, all the meals, keep up with doctor appointments, hair appointments, keep up with bills, as well as sit down to visit. We want them to keep their independence and their home, so we will sacrifice everything to make sure they do.

Caregiving is a hard and isolating experience, but there are caregiver support groups and organizations that can help people get through it. A caregiver support group offers group discussions with people in similar situations and how they work through it. Just having someone to talk to can help, and knowing that others are experiencing the same feelings, whether negative or positive, is a relief. Like raising children, there is no book that gives you the answers, but there are other people who can give some sage advice through experience. offers eight benefits of caregiver support groups. 1. It helps one feel less lonely, isolated or judged. 2. Creates a sense of empowerment and control. 3. Improves coping skills. 4. Reduces distress, depression or anxiety and lowers rates of clinical depression. 5. Develops a clearer understanding of what to expect with your situation. 6. Offers practical advice or information about treatment options. 7. Improves caregiving ability and gives better quality of life for the older adult, and finally, 8. It helps you keep your loved one at home longer.

According to AARP, what prevents caregiver support groups from succeeding, many times, has to do with the reluctance of the caregivers themselves. Some people don’t feel comfortable talking in groups. Others believe they are doing fine and don’t need support, while even more have excuses that include they are too busy caring for their loved one, they can’t get to a support group session. If there are no caregiver support groups in your area, contact some area agencies to determine what programs they have.

“Sometimes people need to quit listening to people and call agencies that can help,” says Vickie Rhew, Senior Companion Director for Visiting Nurses Association of Southeast Missouri. “Sometimes our clients can’t get out, but we become the eyes for the caregiver, even for a short period of time so they can get some sleep.”

According to Rhew, VNA offers Respite for Caregivers, in other words, they offer a form of adult babysitting for clients. For those aging adults who can get out, the Senior Companion will take mom to the hairdressers, or perhaps out to eat, allowing the caregiver a little relief both physically and mentally. “Our companions will even take them to the grocery store,” says Rhew. “Sometimes we like to pick out our own head of lettuce.”

We all love our parents, and we have a certain amount of guilt when we get tired and have negative thoughts, but those feelings are all natural. They took care of us, now we need to take care of them, but even they had feelings of being overwhelmed when we were young. So, lesson the stress and learn how to ask for help to live longer, and “age gracefully.”

For local information about senior companion programs or adult care, contact VNA at 1-800-286-5892/ Aging Matters 1-800-392-8771/ or Senior Services in your area.

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