Supporting Loved Ones As a Caregiver
Friday, March 30 2012 4:33 AM
re you a caregiver who takes care of a child, sibling, parent or someone else who needs help with day-to-day tasks or daily activities? No matter the age of the person you are caring for or your relationship to that person, being a caregiver has a way of putting us in touch with the most basic of humans needs. Caring for others helps put things into perspective. Some people might consider it a calling. Others might view it as an obligation. Regardless, being a caregiver can give you a new or renewed sense of meaning in the midst of all the hard work and responsibility.
But no matter how good your intentions are, caregiving can be exhausting. Caregivers may suddenly, without warning, find themselves burnt out. It’s OK to acknowledge that you’re tired, that you need help, or that you need a break.
Here are some things to keep in mind to be the best caregiver you can be:
- Caregiving can be like learning to type: There’s a lot of hunting and pecking. It may take time and experience to find what works and what doesn’t. Nobody does it perfectly, and no two situations are exactly alike.
- Share the fact that you are a caregiver with your employer, co-workers, church family and/or other friends. It can be therapeutic sharing the challenges you are experiencing, but it may also give those who care about you ideas about how they can help.
- If possible, rearrange your work schedule to make caregiving more convenient and less stressful for you.
- If someone asks you what he or she can do to help, have some ideas in mind or make a list. Tasks might include grocery shopping, household chores or repairs, errands, lawn care, snow removal or cooking.
- Stay connected to the outside world. Attend church and other activities where you can regularly spend time with or find supportive friends.
- If it is difficult to leave the person you are caring for, ask friends to stop by and visit.
- Take care of yourself. Eat a healthy diet, get plenty of sleep and exercise.
- A caregiver may encounter feelings of loneliness, guilt, anger, fear, confusion, frustration or anxiety. This is normal, but if these feelings persist to the point that they continually affect your sleep, diet or other aspects of your well-being, seek help.
- Help is available in many forms, including professional respite care, adult day services, home care, pastoral care and other counseling services, among others.
It’s not easy being a caregiver, but it is a gift, especially to the person you are caring for. But it can also be a gift to you, although it might not feel like it, at times. Nobody does it perfectly, but the gift of your time and caring heart means more than anything.
By Marti Straatmeyer, RN, BSN
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