Care-giving for a loved one can be a stressful job, especially when other aspects of life are already busy. Getting a loved one to doctor appointments, making sure they are taking their medication correctly, making sure they are safe, dealing with problematic behaviors due to illness, seeing them decline, and many other stressors make care-giving difficult, especially long-term care-giving. Placing a loved one in a nursing home may help relieve some of the stress since the daily care and medical conditions can be handled by professional staff. Yet there will continue to be stressors for the caregivers: feelings of guilt over removing the loved one from their home, continuing to see the decline in health, worrying over whether their loved one is receiving proper care, and feeling at a loss over the changing roles of the caregiver.
While the care-giving role changes when a loved one enters a nursing home, the caregiver can still function as an advocate. No nursing home will be perfect, just as no home is perfect, and there may be issues that need addressed. Caregivers can help advocate for their loved ones by staying aware of their loved one’s health situation, appointments, medications, treatments, and involvement in daily activities by talking to the loved one or staff and by participating in care plan meetings. It is important for caregivers to keep open communication with staff and address issues before they become major problems or frustrations. Caregivers can start by communicating questions or concerns with the CNAs that are providing the most direct care about their loved one’s needs, or can discuss problems with the nurse, unit manager, Assistant Director of Nursing, Director of Nursing, or Director of Social Services. Dealing with problems before they have a chance to get worse can help caregivers feel involved in their loved one’s care and reduce the stress of dealing with major issues later.
Caregivers may continue to feel overwhelmed, even after their loved one is in a nursing home. It is important for the health and well-being of the caregiver to take care of themselves by trying to reduce stress, learn how to manage stress, and to take care of themselves. Caregivers can take care of themselves by not neglecting their own health, eating right, getting exercise, sharing responsibilities, taking time to get pampered or have a hobby, and finding support for their emotional health. A happy and healthy caregiver will be better able to respond to the physical and emotional needs of a chronically ill loved one and assist in the transition to a nursing home.