Caring for an aging, ill, or disabled family member creates a host of responsibilities, some familiar, some not so, while others are very difficult, depending on the circumstances.
Family members, especially ones serving in a primary caregiver role, will feel alone at times. But despite the challenges, it's rewarding. To make the caregiving tasks easier, these tips will help.
Always remember, you're not alone. This prevailing encouragement will help you through-out the journey.
Support Groups help you see that your situation is not intolerable and that you're not alone in your feelings and experiences. Groups offer family caregivers a safe place to share get advice regarding information and emotional help.
It's a good way to validate feelings and to find others who struggle with the role. Without support, family members get sick, become sad, angry and many times feel guilt and resentment.
Find time to get the support you need. As a caregiver, your informal networks and peer groups become a lifeline to your strength.
There are many organizations both nation-wide and locally that can help you find support. Most organize at the local level (in person) and in regions across the country, while others are found online. Health care providers head up caregiver support groups. Call your doctor or your health insurance provider to get referrals to groups covered under your health plan.
One of the best ways to find support groups in your area is through the Family Caregiver Support Program in your state. Contact your local Area Agency on Aging (AAA) through the Eldercare Locator, 800-677-1116 toll-free.
An online caregiver support group is found at the Caregiver Action Network.
Caregivers have a tendency to focus energy on the person needing care and not enough on one's own health and lifestyle. This leads to health decline, depression, and caregiver stress. Here are symptoms of stress that caregivers experience:
Help yourself in times of stress
Accept help - Learn to delegate. Make a list for others on how to help you. Don't fall into the mindset that you must do it all alone. Don't feel guilty about asking for help.
Focus on what you can do. Acknowledge that you're doing the best you can. There is nothing wrong if you home is not spotless.
Make connections - the Red Cross and the Alzheimer's Association offer classes on caregiving. Contact your doctor to find local classes and education on caregiving and the specific disease your loved one lives with.
Join a support group - they're a good resource for advice, tips and encouragement from other caregivers in the area.
Make plans to get out of the house and be social. Do the things you love doing; dancing, book clubs, gardening, other hobbies, playing golf.
Set personal health goals - Make time to be physically active on most days of the week. Eat healthy and nutritious foods.
Get a health checkup - Schedule a time to see your doctor. Get recommended immunizations and screenings. Make sure to tell your doctor that you're a caregiver and mention the symptoms you have.
Respite care - hire a companion or ask a friend to sit with your loved one for a few hours.
Learn how to make appointments - explain the reason for the appointment, so the receptionist knows how much time you'll need. You don't need to give a full health history or disclose private information.
Bring your healthcare records - especially, If seeing a new provider, bring a copy of your healthcare records and the results of any previous tests or procedures. Always keep copies of records, they belong to you.Tell the doctor that you're a caregiver.
Tell your doctor the complete story of your health by addressing the following:
Persistent and unshakable feelings of being down could be the first sign of depression.
Feelings have changed. Depression is a mood disorder that affects the way you feel about life. Feelings of hopeless or helplessness are the common.
Depression can take the pleasure or enjoyment out of things you love.
Depression comes with a lack of energy and an overwhelming feeling of lethargy which is debilitating.
The physical and mental toll of depression contributes to anxiety and irritability.
Weight and appetite fluctuates differently for each person. Some have an increased appetite and gain weight while others are not hungry and lose weight.
One minute you're angry, the next you're crying. Emotions fluctuate up and down.
If you have some of these symptoms for more than two weeks, you might be suffering from major depression disorder. Call a professional and get help as soon as you can.
Be open to new technologies that can help you care for your loved one.
Give yourself credit and acknowledge that you're doing the best you can!