Lori Strom is Lifespan and Family Services Coordinator at the MSU WorkLife Office. She presented a session titled Surviving and Thriving as an Elder Caregiver at the Broad College of Business Executive Development Program’s Business and Bagels series.
Strom’s talk addressed the wellness concerns of working caregivers and their elder loved ones. The presentation explored caregivers’ needs for healthy living and resources to balance their work, life and caregiving responsibilities.
“Every situation is unique and special,” says Strom. “There are so many family dynamics that come into play that it’s unique every time you talk to a family.”
Strom says that caring for an elder loved one can often impact the caregiver’s own health. So it’s important for caregivers to take care of their own health.
There can be financial costs to caring for an elder loved one. And caring for that special person can impact one’s own income, often in the form of lost wages.
And Strom cautions that it’s important for elder caregivers to guard against becoming frustrated with mom or dad. And, again, she emphasizes the importance of taking care of yourself as you’re taking care of a loved one.
In her presentation, Lori suggests an elder caregiver should strive for excellence, not perfection. And caregivers should be sure to carve out time in their schedules for activities they enjoy that replenish them.
Elder caregivers need to come to terms with the fact that they’re often not caring for the same person who raised them, particularly if dementia is involved.
When mom or dad begins to need help, Strom says it’s important to gather everyone together for a family meeting. There are options beyond just staying at home or fully moving into a nursing home environment, like adult day care or in-home help. When the time comes, try to move mom or dad just once.
Strom describes what she means by continuum of care.
If and when it comes time to seek a nursing home or assisted living environment for a loved one, Strom advises against focusing too much on the setting’s amenities. It’s the staff that’s key.
We’re going to need more and more elder caregivers in the future. So it’s important that we interest more young people in the profession. And we need to make the profession more attractive to job seekers.
Strom describes the particular challenges for long distance caregivers. And she advises that when caring for an elder loved one, we focus on what mom or dad can do, not what they can’t do anymore.
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