9 Tips for Taking Care of the Caregiver
Caring for someone with a chronic illness or disability brings much satisfaction, however one can get so consumed in all you need to do for the one you are caring for that you can forget to take care of you. BEFORE you are stressed out, burned out, and exhausted, make a conscious effort to take care of you. After all, you are no good to someone else, if you do not take care of you first. Here are a few suggestions on how to take care of the caregiver.
1. Become Educated About the Condition You are Dealing With
- Read books and search Websites such as WebMD or the National Institutes of Health to find out more about the illness, symptoms, treatments, and what to expect as the illness progresses. The more you know, the more confident you will be in your ability to care for someone.
2. Explore What Resources are Available in Your Community
- Is there a support organization for the condition? Do they have a group in your community? Your local library or social services agency can help you to find these resources.
- Seek support from other caregivers; search “caregiver support” on the Internet and find a group that provides peer-to-peer support (one caregiver to another) as well as general information and resources on caregiving. National Alliance for Caregiving is a good place to start, and the Family Caregiver Alliance provides a state by state directory that can guide you to resources near you.
3. Be Realistic About What You Can Do
- Make a list and prioritize all you have to do; concentrate on the most important tasks first and let the lesser ones go if need be. Think about each task. Will it still be so important tomorrow, next week, or next month? If not, scratch it off your list permanently. If the answer is yes, is there someone else (friend, neighbor, children, errand services, etc.) that can assist you?
4. Ask for and Accept Help from Family, Friends, and Community Resources
“No man is an island, entire of itself,” wrote John Donne in 1624, and neither are you. No one can do everything, so when you struggle or feel overwhelmed, ASK FOR HELP.
- Enlist the aid of family, friends, and neighbors — Don’t think of it as taking advantage of others, think of it as giving each one of them an opportunity to do a good deed.
- Take advantage of community resources that provide household help, run errands, deliver meals, or provide respite time.
- When people offer to help accept the offer and suggest specific things that they can do to be helpful.
5. Take Care of Yourself
Don’t let your loved one’s illness or disability take over your life. Hard as it can be to do, rest & take care of YOU. You are no good to someone else if you are all consumed with their needs and fail to take care of yourself.
- Eat Well — Limit those easy to grab fast foods and sweets and consume plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables; keep them on the counter so you will grab good food first.
- Exercise — Do something active everyday; a quick walk around the block, a short yoga routine, or even just a few minutes to close your eyes and do some deep breathing will help.
- Get Plenty of Rest — Create a routine that lends itself to restful sleep. Go to bed at the same time every night. The hour before you go to bed, wind down with a book or relaxing music. If your mind is whirring about all that happened today or what you have to do tomorrow, write it down and forget it for the night.
- Plan Times to Do Something You Enjoy — Caregiving is a very hard job, and you deserve some quality time just for you.
6. Manage Stress
- Take It One Day - One Minute - At a Time, and try to keep your perspective.
- “Change the Channel" When Negative Thoughts Enter Your Mind; steering clear of negative people, news shows, etc., will help with this.
- Practice Stress Management Techniques — Try stretching, laughing, deep breathing, or take a mini-vacation by closing your eyes for a few moments and imagining yourself on the beach with the waves washing away all your cares. For 10 minutes a day, do something that something that brings you a sense of peace.
- See Your Doctor if you find that you are anxious, irritable, angry, or depressed; you feel exhausted, have trouble sleeping or concentrating; you start withdrawing from friends and activities you once enjoyed or can’t remember the last time you felt good. Don’t be embarrassed to share your feelings, you are not alone. Your doctor can help.
7. Accept Changes
- Grieve for Your Losses and Move On By thinking about the way things were, you miss out on the opportunities of today. Treat each new day as a gift, and rejoice in what you have.
- Be Open to New Technologies that allow your loved one to be as independent as possible. There is a big difference between caring and doing for them.
- Understand That Your Loved One Didn't Ask for the Limitations They Have, and it is frustrating for them too. Looking at your role as an opportunity to give back to someone who has loved you may make the hard times easier.
8. Give Yourself Credit
- Don’t feel guilty if you lose your patience or cannot do everything you think you should do. Give yourself credit for all you have accomplished; I’ll bet it is a lot! Trust your instincts — if you seek balance and the greater good, you will find it in your life.
9. Last But Not Least. . . Plan Ahead for Legal and Financial Issues
- Establish a power of attorney for health care and financial issues early, while everyone has the ability to think clearly and objectively. If possible, determine what your loved one’s wishes are, and decide who will be responsible for health care decisions, who will pay bills or make financial decisions, and how you will resolve differences should they arise. Seek the counsel of an attorney who specializes in Elder Law who can advise you on estate planning, long-term care, Medicaid, medical directives, and nursing home issues.
Shelley Peterman Schwarz is a best-selling author, columnist and radio/TV personality. Her 300 Tips for Making Life Easier series of books offer hundreds of tips and strategies for living people who are aging, have a chronic illness, disability and those who love and care for them.
©2015 Meeting Life’s Challenges, LLC www.MakingLifeEasier.com
For reprint permission contact Shelley@MakingLifeEasier.com