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Navigating elder care invites balance for paid care providers

by Isabel Fawcett, SPHR

Caregiving is one of life's mental, emotional and physical challenges. For many paid caregivers who provide direct care assistive support to elders in nursing homes across the United States, the physical demands of their jobs require enormous physical endurance, including safely lifting, turning and transporting elders within nursing homes.

Occasionally, due to circumstances beyond a direct care worker's control, a rogue elderly nursing home resident may need to be restrained from violent outbursts. The physical demands of direct care work are non-inclusive, meaning that care providers must also exercise some degree of independent judgment in oversight of elderly individuals.

In the world of nursing home eldercare, direct care workers and nursing staff are on duty for the duration of each day's shift. Eight-plus hours on one's feet caring for elders will always be among life's memorable experiences for many direct care workers.

Paid caregivers are caregivers

Periodically there may be unpaid family caregivers who overlook the back-breaking work performed by paid care providers on behalf of American families who use eldercare agency and nursing home services as our care providers of choice.

Life balance is universal

Whether paid or unpaid, caregivers will be emotionally and physically renewed by achieving greater life balance. By knowing what all allows you to rest, renew and recharge your life energy, your paid days of care may feel lighter. Yet, some days all that's left for an exhausted caregiver to do is to allow your tired, aching body to collapse on a sofa, a bed or anywhere that your body and brain deem most appropriate in real-time.

Clear life transitions help

  • Beginnings, getting over the hump and day's end are all rolled into 1

When your day starts, are you on a mad dash to get out the door, fuss through rush-hour traffic gridlock, and arrive at work in the nick-of-time? Didn't have time for lunch today, either, did you? You laugh when anyone mentions ""breaks,"" even though it may not be funny to you anymore. The way you choose to start and move through your day is partially within our control. To the extent that life happens and some events in our lives are curve-balls is beyond our control.

The way you and I respond to what each moment brings is within our circle of influence and life control. One way to start your day feeling in control is to set your alarm clock 45 minutes to one hour earlier than you need to start doing something.

Give a direct care worker a life balance break

  • Instead of hitting the snooze button into oblivion when your alarm first goes off and risking over-sleeping and running late, possibly for the remainder of your day, ease yourself out of your bed - earlier. Look out, look up, look around, walk around, or shuffle if you need to as you re-discover your home space and celebrate your spirit. Pause to look at a sleeping child, half-asleep, or eager pet if you have one, a spouse or domestic partner. As you watch, say to yourself, ""Let me count the ways I love thee,"" or, once loved thee. Carry loving memories, thoughts, and leisurely moments with you on your journey to awakening each day.
  • Want to break the monotony of rush-hour commute gridlock? If you're awake early enough and are so inclined, treat yourself to a take-out cup of coffee and danish at a bakery of your choice that is easy-off, easy-on your highway route to work.
  • Breaks need not be limited to formally designated workplace break benefits for workers. Before and after work, and at lunchtime, create your own break. Breaks that provide respite generally include a change of scenery, activity and/or venue. Sometimes those who work with people all day need a lunchtime respite away from people, telephones and/or computers that glare at your deer-in-headlights eyes. One of my former colleagues used her lunchtime daily to sit in her car where she chose to read her Bible before returning to her assigned work area. Some colleagues team-up for a 10-minute power walk at lunchtime.
  • Religious faith renewal is not your thing? There is abundant secular life wisdom and inspiration everywhere to support you in re-directing your focus to things that are thought-provoking and otherwise inspiring. A couple of my favorites include Dr. Deepak Chopra's books on CD, including Dr. Chopra's ""The Book of Secrets."" Perfect for drive-time listening, instead of breaking news that may increase your anxiety level and muscle tension. Dr. Wayne Dyer also offers secular wisdom, including CDs.
  • At day's end, if possible, avoid jostling on the road with speed and whiz-bang highway lane maneuvers. As often as you can, try to pace yourself by asking, ""What's the rush in this situation? Is there something urgent or an emergency for which I need to step-up my pace, or not?

On the road, I occasionally think about the old airline passenger joke that those who are allowed to board the plane first and those who pay for first-class seats also will arrive - at the same time, to the same destination. The economy passenger insider's joke about the airline industry and its VIP passengers also holds true of eldercare and caregiving as well. Think about it. I think it may hold true on the great American road as well, whiz-bang lane maneuvers notwithstanding.

When is the last time you took the long way home after working an eight-hour day?