Ceremonies and rituals often mark big events in life; but when you become a family caregiver, there are no ceremonies or rituals. No one congratulates you. No one sends presents. No one even asks if you want to become a caregiver, or tells you what it might mean. You may not even have realized that you have taken this life-changing step.
You are a caregiver if you:
- Take care of someone who has a chronic illness or disease.
- Manage medications on someone’s behalf.
- Help Bathe or dress someone who is frial or disabled.
- take care of househole chores, meals, shopping, or bills for someone who cannot perform these tasks alone.
Helping Caregivers and Yourself
1) Offer Help to Caregivers
Caregivers rarely ask for help, so we all must be advocates for them. We must reach out to those in need and offer help, or recognize that they need resources and support.
- Inform them of what is available in your community: this includes but is not limited to caregiving services, adult day care, meals on wheels, and respite care.
2) Ask for Help
- Speak up: Do not expect friends and family members to automatically know what you need or how you’re feeling.
- Spread the responsibility: Try to get as many family members involved as possible.
- Set up a regular check-in: Ask a family member, friend, or volunteer from your church or senior center to call you on a set basis (every day, weekly, or how ever often you think you need it). This person can help you spread status updates and coordinate with other family members.
- Accept assistance: Accept help and let them feel good about supporting you.
- Be willing to relinquish some control: Delegate and do not micromanage.
3) Give Yourself a Break
As a busy caregiver, leisure time may seem like an impossible luxury. But you owe it to yourself, as well as to the person you are caring for, to carve it into your schedule.
- Set aside a minimum of 30 minutes every day for yourself. Do what you enjoy: reading, gardening, knitting, or watching the game.
- Find ways to pamper yourself. Try small luxuries such as, lighting candles, taking a long bath, getting a manicure, or buying fresh flowers for the house.
- Get out of the house. Seek out friends and family to step in with caregiving so you can have some time away from the home.
- Visit with friends and share your feelings. The simple act of expressing what you are going through can be very helpful. If it is difficult to leave the house, invite friends over to visit with you over coffee or dinner.
4) Practice Acceptance
When faced with the unfairness of a loved one’s illness or the burden of caregiving, there is often a need to make sense of the situation and ask “Why?” But you can spend a tremendous amount of energy dwelling on things you cannot change and for which there are no clear answers. Try to avoid the emotional trap of feeling sorry for yourself or searching for someone to blame. Focus on accepting the situation and looking for ways it can help you grown as a person.
- Focus on the things you can control: You cannot wish your mother’s cancer away or force your brother to help out more. Rather than stressing out over things you cannot control, focus on the way you choose to react to problems.
- Find the silver lining: Think about the ways caregiving has made you stronger or how it has brought you closer to person you are taking care of or to other family members. Think about how caregiving allows you to give back and show your love.
5) Take care of your health
Think of your body like a car. With the right fuel and proper maintenance, it will run reliably and well. Neglect its upkeep and it will start to give you trouble. Do not add to the stress of your caregiving situation with avoidable health woes.
• Keep on top of your doctor visits: Do not skip check-ups or medical appointments.
• Exercise: Exercise is a powerful mood enhancer and stress reducer.
• Meditate: Relieve stress and boost feelings of joy and well-being.
• Eat well: Fuel your body with steady energy.
• Get your sleep: When you get less, your mood, energy, productivity, and ability to handle stress will suffer.
6) Join a support group
A caregiver support group is a way to share your troubles and find people who are going through the same experiences that you are living each day. In most support groups, you will talk about your problems and listen to others talk, helping yourself and those around you. Most important, you will find out that you are not alone.
Watch this weeks news segment to learn more!