Helping Family and Helping Yourself Too
While your relative may have been the active, sociable and independent person who was more likely to be at the dancing hall than bingo hall, their life can seem like it’s changed beyond recognition after being diagnosed with serious vision problems. Being their carer has impacted on your life too and although it can be a challenge to adapt to these new dynamics in your relationships, here’s some advice from Angela Tinker of Visionary - an organization that brings together local sight charities – who strongly believes that these times can be the making of your family.
It can be a difficult time when you’re adjusting to the changes in your relationship as your parent becomes more reliant on you for care and support. It’s tempting to avoid talking about these changes, as they can happen so gradually and you’re compelled to help in every way you can. But being open about how you’re feeling and coping will help the two of you navigate the transition, both practically and emotionally.
“It’s common for the carer to suddenly feel the need to step in and do everything for the relative they’re caring for,” says Angela. “But this can make them feel too dependent and needy, and can create resentment early on.”
This is a normal feeling and one that needs to be discussed in the first instance when trying to help a relative. “Once you’ve acknowledged your feelings about your relative becoming your carer, then you can address the important practical changes that will actually help you take back control of your life again,” says Angela.
“Sit down together and think through your relative’s daily life and come up with solutions to the everyday problems they’re now facing due to poor vision,” Angela advises. Simple changes around the home can make a big difference. Color contrasts help features like doors and light switches stand out and there are many simple products like liquid level indicators and microwaves to help make life easier.
Try not to treat your parent differently, even though their needs may have changed. Remember that with a bit of assistance, they are still capable of doing a lot of what they used to and it will be important to them to feel self-sufficient. “Find ways to help and encourage them to continue with their old hobbies and interests – or even to take up new ones,” Angela adds.
It may be tempting to intervene and give a lot of practical support for a relative with vision problems, but it’s better for both of you if you can help them to do things independently. If there are some tasks your relative physically can’t do anymore, or don’t feel comfortable doing, then talk through a resolution that’s best for you both. “There are many community care options available, and for some household jobs, it might be worth getting a gardener or cleaner to come in and help out,” says Angela. “Don’t overload yourself as the carer – delegation is key.”
Building up a network of supporters made up of friends and family is invaluable. Even monthly visits from relatives and friends who may live further away and can’t be on hand day-to-day will help ease the load. “Take the initiative to contact everyone, as your relative is likely to feel embarrassed to ask,” Angela adds.
Give yourself a break
Sometimes relatives find they have to take on a more formal caring role, which can be time intensive. “Carers can often be so preoccupied with the health and wellbeing of the person they are caring for, that their own needs take a back seat,” say Carers Trust in the UK.
Try to take regular breaks and holidays and organize other care for your parent so you can achieve a good balance in your own life. “It’s important to keep your own activities and friends, even if you now have less time for them than before,” say Carers Trust.