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Safe at home: 3 things to know for caregivers of older adults

When facing advancing age and illness, most people prefer to stay in their own home as long as possible, rather than go into a care facility.

To respond to this need, millions of Americans provide care to aging or ill family members. It's difficult work, even in the best of circumstances, with medical appointments, daily tasks, medication schedules and all sorts of unforeseen challenges.

Here are three things to know as you try to help your ill or aging family member stay safe at home as long as possible.

Recognize that taking care of yourself is important in order to provide care to others.

The responsibility for caregiving, day after day, takes a toll on you both physically and emotionally - often more than you realize. It can become overwhelming a lot faster than you ever thought, even if you're not trying to juggle a job on top of providing care.

This is where the often-quoted saying about putting your own oxygen mask on first comes in. If you don't take care of yourself, the demands of the caregiving role can lead to burnout and put your own health in jeopardy.

In other words, it's important to balance providing care for a loved one with finding the support you need as a caregiver to also take care of yourself.

Resources are available to provide support for caregivers

When caring for an older adult, you may have relied on yourself for so long that you aren't aware of other resources. But it's important to realize that such resources exist.

The Tennessee Commission on Aging & Disability offers several useful tips on how to manage caregiver stress. For example, caregivers can seek a temporary break called respite care, or join a support group for caregivers.

Another organization that can help you identify resources is the AARP. Next month, AARP in Tennessee has several online sessions to provide useful information for working caregivers.

If you can't keep up with the demands, t's easy to feel guilty or like you've failed. But what happens when your family member needs more care than you're not qualified to provide? What about when you're burnt out or you just need a break?

Fall-prevention is a key part of staying safe at home or in a care facility.

A bad fall can be devastating for an older person. It can result in injuries that begin a terrible downward health spiral or even turn out to be fatal.

Unfortunately, falls are surprisingly common. It therefore makes sense to be proactive about developing a fall prevention plan. This would include actions such as reviewing medications, because meds tend to have side-effects that make people drowsy or affect balance when walking.

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