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Staying In Control as a Caregiver: Acknowledge, Assess, Assist

To control or not to control? That is a good question when it comes to one of the principle issues that individuals have to deal with while caring for family members, especially family members with serious cognitive conditions. Accepting the loss of control, when to take control and when to relinquish the control can make a big difference in coping during the caregiving journey. Following is an excerpt from Keeping It Together: How to Cope as a Family Caregiver without Losing Your Sanity offering three ways to acknowledge,assess,assist the control factor with each way dependent on the circumstance.

Loss of control: In circumstances that involve a family member's advancing dementia or other decline, the caregivers often will get frustrated and impatient with the illness. They are slowly losing the family member to the illness when there is more impairment or when social activities such as playing bridge or dancing together can no longer be done. A panic may set in while acknowledging the reality of losing someone so close. It may be an ill daughter/son, having a spouse who moves from being a partner or a mother who moves from being a parent to gradually becoming a dependent. This adverse awakening can lead family caregivers to 'grasp at straws', thinking that in some way they can control the situation and make their spouse, parent, sibling better. At some point, best if sooner than later, these family caregivers assess their loss of control. Once you assess your loss of control of the advancing illness and accept it as best you can, you assist yourself into a position to move forward with less angst and frustration.

Taking control: Providing care during a family member's advancing illness or cognitive challenges requires the ability to take control. This can be a struggle for many who are carrying out the role. For instance, a husband has to take control using strategies to get his wife with Alzheimer's to stop cooking after she caused a stove fire. Also, with cognitive decline, a parent's judgment often becomes impaired. This means that the adult child has to take control in assuring that the parent's money is being managed so often taking over the finances is required. The ill husband may resist changes that would be beneficial so as the caregiver, the wife is required to take control to see that appropriate changes are made - changes such as putting up grab bars in the shower or arranging for a day program. Asking for assistance in these struggles can take away feelings of helplessness and helps in strategizing around the difficulties. Assistance also comes from acknowledging the role as a job and taking frequent breaks.

Relinquishing control: This can often be difficult in the advance stages of dementia or other cognitive decline when symptoms continue to manifest such as increased lack of language comprehension, mobility loss, and incontinence. Many family members feel a strong sense of obligation becoming attached to their caregiving role and may feel like a failure if they can not fulfill the role to the very end. For these caregivers, it often takes a crisis, sometimes compromised health or even caregiver death for control of the care provision to be relinquished. Accepting assistance from other family members and professionals helps in preventing burnout that can lead to further dire consequences. Assessing when the care demands have become too high and taking control by relinquishing control of the overwhelming caregiving role is good for the care recipient to assure best quality care.

Control plays a big part in providing optimum care. Accepting the loss of control, when to take control and when to relinquish the control can make a big difference in coping during the caregiving journey........Acknowledge,Assess,Assist.


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