The role of caregiver is often a thankless and often never-ending job. Fear, frustration, guilt, exhaustion, and burnout are often associated with long-term caregivers. Besides providing care, the caregiver is always thinking of ways to help make life easier for those in their care.
Caregivers also have another responsibility that is often lost in their daily duties. They also need to take care of his or herself including finding some “alone time” to recharge the batteries.
Far too often, the caregiver’s needs are forgotten. With the advent of cell phones and alert bracelets, being on-duty 24-7 doesn’t have to mean giving up their personal lives. And, even though we might say “Thanks” and “Provide Encouragement”, it is not enough. We need to find ways to be a caregiver to our caregiver. It can mean something as simple as giving the caregiver some “guilt free” time away from their duties. Or, it can mean encouraging the caregiver to go to a spa or the gym for a few hours—or, maybe taking in a movie or dinner with friends. Hobbies are also a wonderful distraction.
The following are some tips from an article from the Family Caregivers Alliance. To read the entire article, click on this link.
Remember, it is not selfish to focus on your own needs and desires when you are a caregiver—itʼs an important part of the job. You are responsible for your own self-care.
Reducing Personal Stress
How we perceive and respond to an event is a significant factor in how we adjust and cope with it. The stress you feel is not only the result of your caregiving situation but also the result of your perception of it—whether you see the glass as half-full or half-empty. It is important to remember that you are not alone in your experiences.
Setting goals or deciding what you would like to accomplish in the next three to six months is an important tool for taking care of yourself.
Seeking solutions to difficult situations is, of course, one of the most important tools in caregiving. Once youʼve identified a problem, taking action to solve it can change the situation and also change your attitude to a more positive one, giving you more confidence in your abilities.
Being able to communicate constructively is one of a caregiverʼs most important tools. When you communicate in ways that are clear, assertive, and constructive, you will be heard and get the help and support you need.
Asking for and Accepting Help
When people have asked if they can be of help to you, how often have you replied, “Thank you, but I'm fine.” Many caregivers donʼt know how to marshal the goodwill of others and are reluctant to ask for help. You may not wish to “burden” others or admit that you can't handle everything yourself.
Be prepared with a mental list of ways that others could help you. For example, someone could take the person you care for on a 15-minute walk a couple of times a week. Your neighbor could pick up a few things for you at the grocery store. A relative could fill out some insurance papers. When you break down the jobs into very simple tasks, it is easier for people to help. And they do want to help. It is up to you to tell them how.
Help can come from community resources, family, friends, and professionals. Ask them. Donʼt wait until you are overwhelmed and exhausted or your health fails. Reaching out for help when you need it is a sign of personal strength.
Talking to the Physician
In addition to taking on the household chores, shopping, transportation, and personal care, 37 percent of caregivers also administer medications, injections, and medical treatment to the person for whom they care. Some 77 percent of those caregivers report the need to ask for advice about the medications and medical treatments. The person they usually turn to is their physician.
But while caregivers will discuss their loved oneʼs care with the physician, caregivers seldom talk about their own health, which is equally important. Building a partnership with a physician that addresses the health needs of the care recipient and the caregiver is crucial. The responsibility of this partnership ideally is shared between you, the caregiver, the physician, and other healthcare staff. However, it will often fall to you to be assertive, using good communication skills, to ensure that everyoneʼs needs are met—including your own.
Starting to Exercise
You may be reluctant to start exercising, even though youʼve heard itʼs one of the healthiest things you can do. Perhaps you think that physical exercise might harm you, or that it is only for people who are young and able to do things like jogging. Fortunately, research suggests that you can maintain or at least partly restore endurance, balance, strength, and flexibility through everyday physical activities like walking and gardening. Even household chores can improve your health. The key is to increase your physical activity by exercising and using your own muscle power.
Exercise promotes better sleep, reduces tension and depression, and increases energy and alertness. If finding time for exercise is a problem, incorporate it into your daily activity. Perhaps the care recipient can walk or do stretching exercise with you. If necessary, do frequent short exercises instead of those that require large blocks of time. Find activities you enjoy.
Walking, one of the best and easiest exercises, is a great way to get started. Besides its physical benefits, walking helps to reduce psychological tension. Walking 20 minutes a day, three times a week, is very beneficial. If you canʼt get away for that long, try to walk for as long as you can on however many days you can. Work walking into your life. Walk around the mall, to the store, or a nearby park. Walk around the block with a friend.
Learning from Our Emotions
It is a strength to recognize when your emotions are controlling you (instead of you controlling your emotions). Our emotions are messages to which we need to listen. They exist for a reason. However negative or painful, our feelings are useful tools for understanding what is happening to us. Even feelings such as guilt, anger, and resentment contain important messages. Learn from them, then take appropriate action.