Sunday, January 10, 2010

Caregivers need caring for, too

Rosalyn Carter said, "There are only four kinds of people in the world – those who have been caregivers, those who are currently caregivers, those who will be caregivers and those who will need caregivers."  Who are caregivers? They are spouses, family, friends, neighbors, and occasionally contracted service providers (including in-home providers, nurses and therapists). 

Caregivers usually do not receive a lot of appreciation. Often caregivers, after giving and giving, day after day, end up needing to be cared for themselves. They not only feel the weight of the world on their shoulders for the person they are caring for, but they also have to care for their own needs and the needs of the other family members. Stress can build up in the caregiver (especially when there is a serious health issue) to a point where he/she cannot take it anymore. Depression is very common among caregivers. When this happens, it is usually the result of feeling that everything is their responsibility and the caregiver has nowhere to turn for help or mental and emotional support.

I have mentioned in a few of my posts that I am not always the easiest person to live with (for some people that know me, this might be hard to believe). I also mentioned that at times, I feel "mothered" or even "smothered" because I still need to feel a certain level of independence. This is not the fault of my wife. It is just my perception of what is taking place and my over-reaction to the situation. To put it bluntly, my wife is a saint for putting up with me. Fortunately, she understands and accepts (puts up with) many of my shortcomings.

For those of us that are fortunate enough to have a caregiver, we need to understand that the caregiver needs caring for, too. Unless contracted, caregivers almost never get a vacation or have time to just relax and pamper themselves. It is usually a 24-hour a day, seven days a week job. Moreover, most caregivers did not buy into their current role and responsibilities. For that reason alone, they need your emotional support, your understanding when things do not quite go as planned, and, most importantly, your love.

Have you hugged your caregiver today?


The National Family of Caregivers provides the following "Ten Tips for Caregivers."

1. Caregiving is a job and respite is your earned right. Reward yourself with respite breaks often.

2. Watch out for signs of depression, and do not delay in getting professional help when you need it.

3. When people offer to help, accept the offer and suggest specific things that they can do.

4. Educate yourself about your loved one's condition and how to communicate effectively with doctors.

5. There is a difference between caring and doing. Be open to technologies and ideas that promote your loved one's independence.

6. Trust your instincts; most of the time they will lead you in the right direction.

7. Caregivers often do a lot of lifting, pushing, and pulling. Be good to your back.

8. Grieve for your losses, and then allow yourself to dream new dreams.

9. Seek support from other caregivers. There is great strength in knowing you are not alone.

10. Stand up for your rights as a caregiver.

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