Caregivers are becoming a vital component of our society – both professionally trained people and family members who in many instances are called upon to act with the same professionalism as a paid caregiver. Providing assistance either in the disabled individual’s home, or in an assisted living facility, caregivers are the backbone of a growing body of work that is essential, challenging, sometimes onerous, and often unrecognised.

The responsibilities

Basic caregiving: A caregiver assists a disabled individual, either physically or mentally, with daily activities, such as bathing, dressing and meal preparation. This can include those who are intellectually challenged and the elderly suffering physical difficulties due to illness or dementia.

Domesticity: Depending on the level of training and arrangements, a caregiver may also provide assistance with domestic tasks, such as cleaning, laundry, dishes, vacuuming, budgeting, and shopping.

Companionship: Because a caregiver spends a great deal of time with her resident, she may well become a close friend – becoming the person whom the resident comes to trust the most.

Quality of life: Apart from physical care, a caregiver is often also tasked with providing additional support to help the resident improve his or her quality of life. This may range from things as simple as daily exercises to increase mobility, to helping to train the mind through crosswords and other exercises requiring mental agility. Keeping the resident as engaged as possible with tasks, goals and motivation is often key to the resident finding a more balanced and satisfying life.

Independence: Part of the focus of service would be to teach the resident to become as independent as possible, training them to complete tasks unaided. It may also be part of caregiver’s duties to assist the resident to take up useful employment and to guide them through the daily routine of learning to take care of themselves as they improve or grow older.

Keeping records: Noting improvements and keeping a track of progress is very important. It is also good for the resident to understand that they are progressing and the hard work has a purpose and attainable goals.

Medical care: Training for a caregiver should run to knowing and understanding and administering any medication that the resident needs to take, and keeping abreast of new medical information. The ability to take a pulse, a temperature, and to comprehend when intervention is required is important.

Caring for Adults

This is a difficult decision for some parents, as to whether to have their adult children cared for within an institution, or have home care. The best outcome is always the choice that will give the disabled person the greatest sense of ‘normality’. However, the care needs of a disabled person can become an emotionally charged issue for the family. The disabled child, whether physically or intellectually disabled, requires special attention for social integration and emotional well-being, and frequently relies on the family for meeting these needs.

Caregiving services within the confines of the home

  • While families have always provided the best environment for intellectually disabled adult children or family members, the dynamics have changed, sometimes leaving enormous pressure on one member of the family to care for the disabled person.
  • Families don’t live together in large, extended families anymore. In addition, today many families have fewer children – therefore there are less people to take up the load of caring for a disabled person amongst them. And single-parent families are becoming more common.
  • With fewer family members as carers in the home, and home-based care an ever popular choice, the expectations of receiving top-notch professional care, either from a family member or an employed caregiver, has increased in pressure and complexity.
  • Thus caregivers may find that their care duties interfere with valued activities such as visiting friends, attending religious services or medical check-ups, or simply going to the bank, etc. Therefore those working within these situations should become aware that balancing emotional and physical stress, as well as work and other family responsibilities, can become a severe strain, whether the caregiver is professionally called to duty or a close family member.

The story of Sunfield Home

Twenty years ago, Chris and Lynne Bennett, parents of a young girl with Down Syndrome, pursued their dream of establishing a home for their daughter and other intellectually disabled young adults in the Western Cape. Together with other parents, they founded the Sunfield Home in Wellington, providing a loving and nurturing environment for over 100 residents and day-care adult individuals who are looked after by loving carers day and night.

Each individual is screened to evaluate their strengths and allocate activities according to their abilities. A protective workshop has been established where contract work is undertaken, as well as arts and crafts activities. An employment scheme has also been developed and as a result permanent and successful positions have been found within the surrounding wine and cheese industries.

Find out more about us at: www.sunfieldhome.co.za

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