Getting Help from Other Caregivers
During the holidays, remember any paid caregivers (nursing home aides, day care workers, shuttle drivers, for example) who help make your loved one's life better. Make sure that your gifts are thoughtful.
Let caregivers see photos of your parent in earlier days. Caregivers and others will more easily connect with her if they are reminded of the vitality she once had.
"A year after cousin Pauline was diagnosed with Alzheimer's, Maureen came to live with her and Joe, Pauline's husband. Maureen was a dedicated, caring professional, but Joe is not the easiest person to live with -- he tends to withdraw and then appears hostile even if he's not. We were afraid we'd lose Maureen, and she was a real gem. One day, I went over there for dinner and I got Joe to take out photos of Pauline back when we all went on vacations together and Pauline would win every swimming race we ever had. Maureen was touched that Joe was sharing these with her and surprised when he started going on and on about the old days -- talking a mile a minute, saying more to her than he had in all the weeks she'd been working there. Things were a little different after that. For one thing, I think Maureen looked at Pauline with a new kind of respect. She also was a lot more understanding of just how much of a vivacious, energetic person Joe was missing."
Call at various times a day to check on your parent and on the caregiver. Don't allow your calls (or visits) to become predictable. Showing up at unexpected times is a good idea, especially in the beginning. Of course, you don't have to say you're there to check up. Invent an excuse to drop by.
If you're doing something nice for your parent (baking something special, picking up a small gift), consider doing the same for the caregiver.
If Grandpa is embarrassed about his nursing companion in front of the friends he encounters when he goes out for his walk, tell him to introduce the companion as "my friend." The real nature of the relationship is no one's business.
Create a checklist of issues (like temperature, breathing problems, medication) and ask each caregiver to fill out a column before they go off duty.
Caregivers provide your family with so many of the resources you need to keep your life and that of your parent vital. How much do you know about their families?
Make sure a home caregiver is comfortable in your home, that she knows she's welcome in the kitchen, on the patio, and so forth. Would a small refrigerator or microwave in the room she occupies (or elsewhere around the house) make her job easier?
Be realistic in your expectations for caregivers. Don't expect more of other people than you could ever do for yourself. In fact, accept that no paid caregivers, no matter how dedicated, are going to care as much as you do, and you will never be 100% satisfied with their care.