Q. My 59-year-old mom had a tumor removed in 2002 and although her MRIs remain clear, her mobility is fading. My dad is her primary care giver for 11 years now, and he is exhausted. I let him vent and encourage where I can, but I am unable to physically help him with mom because she is fairly overweight. He is frustrated with everything, insurance, paperwork, and just the situation of her not being able to walk. They have hired a part-time caregiver to help shower mom and help with light house duties. What is the best thing for a caregiver at this point? How does one get help?
Caregiving for a loved one with limited mobility can be physically and emotionally overwhelming. Help comes in many forms, and it sounds like a combination of both practical and emotional support might be most helpful to your family now.
Asking for help when needed is an important part of the caregiver experience. It sounds like the part-time help your parents have enlisted is a good starting place to help ensure that her basic day-to-day needs are being met. Checking in with local community agencies, religious organizations or hospital social worker may provide additional information on respite care or volunteer services to help your dad manage the practical aspects of caregiving.
You can ask your mom’s doctor about possible mobility devices (e.g., walkers, seat risers or swivel seats) that can help her move around more easily. Also, you could ask for a referral to an occupational therapist who might be able to address and work on specific mobility issues. In some cases, a person’s physical needs exceed what family members or friends are able to provide, regardless of how much they want to or try to help.
It’s also important that you and your dad are taking care of yourselves. CancerCare’s workshop, Stress Management for Caregivers: Taking Care of Yourself Physically and Emotionally, may offer some tips on managing the emotional impact of caregiving. CancerCare’s staff of licensed oncology social workers can also provide free counseling and support groups (including online and telephone support groups for caregivers) to you and your dad to help you cope with your role as caregivers.