For this edition of #CaregivingHacks, check out what Eliza & Michelle have been sharing recently on our Instagram page to help with some of the harder things in caring for our loved ones: for Eliza, her grandmother with dementia, for Michelle, her young daughter with a neurological disorder. Bonus: you’ll find these hacks help caregivers and care receivers of all ages!
Eliza: Finding footing after a fall
When something happens to disrupt your “normal,” (for us it was a fall) try to focus on everything you possibly can that will help ground your loved one back in their normal routine. Give them their makeup bag and let them primp as usual, even if they’re bruised and unable to get cleaned up or dressed. Let them help with chores like folding the napkins before meals even if it’s a bit slower or they think they can’t. For me, it looked like letting my grandmother do her usual reminiscent seamstress routine with fixing my outfit: checking the seams of my dress, folding up my top-long cuffs, and inspecting the material, even though it hurt her to move her arms so much. Her world was shaken this weekend; nearly nothing about her routine is familiar, and that is causing a constant state of confusion. By allowing her — bruised, unable to stand, wavering in health — to do some of her usual duties, she can find some familiar, trustworthy ground upon which to begin gaining her footing again.
Michelle: Easier, more efficient errands
I am new to the joys of Instacart but I’m not a stranger to grocery delivery services. After my daughter had double hip surgery at the age of five, we couldn’t put her in a car seat or shopping cart for several months because we couldn’t bend her hips & legs at a certain angle. And, it was February. So I signed up for Peapod and it was a godsend. Now that my daughter is older, she struggles with emotional, behavioral, and sensory issues, which make grocery shopping equally challenging. She also fatigues more easily as part of her KAND (KIF1A Associated Neurological Disorder) diagnosis, and she’s too big to ride in the cart anymore. So, Instacart to the rescue. The added bonus for this mom-caregiver-entrepreneur? I get my grocery shopping done while working at home.
Eliza: Moving those muscles
Muscles, muscles, muscles! The stronger your loved one is, the less likely they are to fall, the better their balance will be, and the easier it will be for them to do things independently such as standing up and dressing themselves. Of course muscle loss is a natural occurrence as we age, but it is also a downward spiral: the more we are inactive, the more muscle we lose; the more muscle we lose, the more likely we are to remain sedentary in fear of injury. But as caregivers, we can’t be too afraid to push boundaries. If your loved one is struggling to stand up, let them push themselves a little bit using their own strength, because they are using their arm muscles every time they try. Let them try to pull up their own pants; leave some light free weights next to their chair; ask them to help you fold something big like a blanket or sheet (the big movement is good for muscles.) It is so easy to step in and do things for those for whom we care, because it is perhaps easier, quicker, or more efficient when we do it, but we are doing a huge disservice to our loved ones when we don’t let them try. The more we do for them, the less they believe they can do themselves. So let’s do whatever we can to keep those muscles strong and working!
Michelle: Securing a sleep schedule
These two natural supplements have made our daughter’s bedtime routine more peaceful. Both help her body and brain to slow down, relax, and settle into a better night’s sleep. They also keep us on a more consistent sleep & wake schedule, as the melatonin moderates her rhythms of rest.
Eliza: Making time away meaningful
if you’re going to be away from your loved one for a few days, make them a sunshine basket! Wrap up some small, fun odds and ends that they’d enjoy, and they can look forward to opening and using the gifts every new day! It’s a bit of a distraction from the fact that you’re away, and a fun way to switch things up and give them something to look forward to. Some things we wrapped up: a princess card game, a large piece puzzle she can do with someone’s help, a fold-up fancy fan, lipstick, some snacks. Get creative, and think of things that could be interactive and enjoyable.
Eliza: Fighting boredom on both sides
I’ve said it before and I’ll keep saying it, because it is so, so important: get creative with the ways you keep your loved ones engaged and thinking. Nobody wants to do the same activities every day, neither caregiver nor cared for! It doesn’t by any means need to be expensive or involved to work; just pull some things from the junk drawer onto the table and see what you can come up with. All we used for this was 3 cups and a piece of hard candy, and it kept us busy, thinking, and laughing for the afternoon.