Though most people will either give or receive care at some point in their lives, caregiving can be unfamiliar, confusing and stressful — not only for those receiving care, but also for families and friends searching for ways to care for their loved ones.
Luckily, there is help out there
In Brevard, various organizations and support groups strive to provide assistance to better care for sick and elderly individuals who are unable to care for themselves. No matter which approach people take when trying to determine a plan for giving care, they must realize that they are not alone, says Kathi Ridner, director at One Senior Place.
“The most difficult thing people are faced with is that families oftentimes try to do it themselves,” Kathi says. “They do it for good reason — because they love the person, it’s their mother, child or spouse. But no one person can do it alone.”
Kathi says that coming up with a caregiving plan is critical, whether that involves hiring a professional, having family members and friends pitch in, finding an assisted or independent-living option, or combining those resources.
“In Brevard, we are quite lucky to have lots of agencies and companies for caregiving,” she says. “Identify your needs and utilize all the help you can get.”
Stepping into the Role of Caregiver
Kathi says that she stresses one piece of advice to families or friends who are acting as caregivers for their loved ones: When offered help, take it.
“When you find someone asking how they can help, think of what you can tell them to help with, and take them up on the offer,” Kathi says. “Whether it be someone from church or a friend down the street, people want to help. Take it.”
Dawn Faust, marketing and communications director at Space Coast Cancer Center, says that support groups are also a great way to find help.
“It’s good for them to get out and talk to people who are in the same boat, who are doing the same thing, and have the same stressors and concerns. Sometimes, just having the ability to talk to someone about what you’re going through can recharge your strategies a little bit.”
But from a medical standpoint, if there are needs that cannot be met from family members or friends, hiring a professional should be considered.
“Sometimes, if the patient is on special medication, or injections need to be given, no one should feel ‘caregiver guilt,’” Dawn says. “The bottom line is, it comes down to the welfare of a patient. If a patient would fare better with the care of someone from the outside coming in, you should not feel guilty for seeking help.”
Seeking Outside Care
Michele Fuller, network development manager for Cancer Care Centers of Brevard, says that the first step for finding an outside caregiver is to determine the level of care necessary.
“Do you need someone to provide transportation to and from their appointments, or are you looking for medical assistance?” Michele says. “These are questions you must answer to determine if you simply need companion care or if you are looking for a skilled medical professional.”
Michele says that after determining that information, it is useful to evaluate financial resources and work with a medical professional or caregiving expert to find a reputable, licensed agency.
“There are a lot of resources out there to help with the finances, but you have to do your research,” Michele says. “For example, there is an Aid and Attendance benefit for veterans that will contribute funds toward caregivers or assisted living. Anybody who is a veteran, or the spouse of a veteran, needs to explore that option.”
Dawn says that while there are a variety of companies who offer caregiving services, many specialize in one area, which can be extremely helpful when finding care for specific illnesses. For instance, one company may have a speech therapist on staff, which would be beneficial to a head and neck cancer patient who may experience difficulty when swallowing.
“You need to do your homework and find quality care because not everything is equal,” Dawn says. “I would do my due diligence, such as checking with the Better Business Bureau, to see if there are any complaints out there. And I always ask around to get recommendations from people I trust.”