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Preserving Your Privacy during Your Caregiver Journey

Preserving Your Privacy during Your Caregiver Journey

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In many ways, making the choice to become a family caregiver for your elderly parents can feel like you are handing your life over. You make this decision because you love your parents and want to ensure they have the care, support, and assistance they need and deserve, and because you want to spend quality time with them, but in doing this you dedicate a tremendous amount of time, energy, and emotion to them. One of the most important things to remember as you enter your caregiver relationship, and throughout the journey, is that no matter how devoted you are to your parents and their care, you are still an individual who deserves your own life and your privacy.

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Privacy is important for everyone, but creating and maintaining this privacy can be difficult when you care for elderly adults. Many parents have a difficult time understanding or respecting the privacy needs of their children, even when they are adults, and seniors who have cognitive limitations, particularly associated with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, may behave inappropriately and in ways that breach your privacy. Taking steps to preserve your privacy is important to maintaining your autonomy, supporting your life outside of your care relationship, and managing your stress.

Use these tips to help you preserve your privacy in all facets of your caregiver journey:

• Be true to yourself. Privacy means something different to everyone and it is important to evaluate what exactly it means to you. Even though you are caring for your parents, you must stay true to your own sense of privacy and personal space to ensure you stay mentally and emotionally healthy, and are able to give your parents the highest quality care possible. As you do this, however, be aware that others have their own sense of privacy as well and may, at time, use their own perceptions in their interactions with you. You must have some flexibility and be willing to forgive and compromise in order to protect your relationship with your loved ones.

• Establish boundaries. You cannot expect others to understand or respect your privacy needs if you do not make them known. Establish boundaries from the beginning of your relationship so that your parents and any other members of the care team are aware of them. If the need for more boundaries arises during the course of the care journey, be prepared to discuss those with your parents as well. Be clear with them, telling them specific things such as that they should always knock before entering a room with a closed door, that they are not to pick up the phone when you are on it, how much you are comfortable being touched, topics you are uncomfortable discussing, and personal belongings they should not touch. While it may feel like you are being rude or nagging your parents, it is important that they understand your personal limitations and respect them.

Use notes. Seniors with cognitive limitations and memory loss may have difficulty remembering the importance of certain things such as knocking on doors. This can be a particular problem if your aging loved ones have transitioned into living in your home and start wandering into the bathroom, your bedroom, or your children’s bedrooms. Use large, colorful notes with simple messages on the outside of the door to remind your parents to knock if the door is closed.

Be careful what you say. Seniors with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia are often described as having no filter because they will say inappropriate things or say things in inappropriate contexts. This often includes repeating things that they have heard. If you are caring for seniors with this type of cognitive processing issue, carefully monitor your phone use and conversations you have with visitors. Realize that anything you say could be repeated in any situation, so be cautious not to reveal any information or make any comments you would not want your parents recounting during their next doctor’s appointment or family reunion.