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Posted: Monday, January 18, 2016

Post-Holidays: The Season of Caregivers

We’re fresh off the holiday season when people gather with friends and family to visit and reconnect. For many, this means crossing the statewide, region-wide or nationwide gap that separates them from those they love, in some cases for the sole time in a 12-month timespan. It becomes a “snapshot visit” – sure, it’s better than no visit at all, but it’s also barely enough time for one to really gauge how their loved ones are doing, particularly when there’s feasting and gift-opening to be done. Still, the holidays can give observant adult children the opportunity to pause and notice the state of their family and relatives, particularly the parents and aging family members. It’s a chance to take mental notes on how parents are changing, their overall function level, the status of their health and how they are really doing, compared to how they may sound or what they may say over the phone.

Blount Memorial Hospital licensed clinical social worker Edward Harper says because of this, the post-holiday months of January and February can become the “season of caregivers.” “After those family visits around Thanksgiving and Christmas, January becomes a time of phone calls, texts and emails between siblings or parents and children to discuss the things they observed and experienced over the holidays,” Harper said. “These conversations are important because they’re an attempt to reach an understanding and consensus about the abilities of parents or elder family members, consider if there is a need for assistance and discuss how the perceived need could be approached. Caregiving in its early stages is a progressive response to a sensing of need, which can be a confusing process. To offer care can feel like an intrusive or disrespectful act of interfering with the independence of the parents or an impaired relative. It also can feel threatening when knowing that any offer of care or assistance could be met with admonishment and anger,” he explained.

Harper suggests that broaching these topics is easier when you have both help and a strategic approach. “When attempting to offer care to family, it can be helpful to have the opportunity to discuss the situation with a non-biased person,” he said. “If you are sensing that family members may be experiencing lapses and losses in their ability to care for themselves safely due to physical or medical conditions, or if memory issues and losses of intellectual capacity are becoming noticeable and are creating unsafe living, driving, or financial situations, then having a conversation with an objective professional can be a good start to understanding your observations and creating a plan for offering care,” he explained. “Blount Memorial Senior Services offers free caregiver consultations to allow caregivers time to discuss their situations and explore possible strategies and resources. These are one-on-one consultations, are confidential, and can assist the caregiver in gaining clarity of the situation and developing a plan of care for their loved ones,” he added.

Blount Memorial Senior Services also offers a free “Caregiver Coffee and Conversation” event twice per month to allow caregivers of other adults the opportunity to gather together and discuss matters with people who share their experiences. The next “Caregiver Coffee and Conversation” event takes place Tuesday, Jan. 19 from 10-11 a.m. at the Vienna Coffee House located at 212 College St., in Maryville.

For more information about the event or to schedule a caregiver consultation, contact Blount Memorial Senior Services at 865-977-5744.

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