Helpful Tips to Assist a Family Caregiver
Tips to Ease Family Caregiving
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. Here are some tips to make the tasks easier.
Always remember, you're not alone. This prevailing encouragement will help you throughout the journey.
Find Support and Encouragement
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 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 help you need. As a caregiver, your informal networks and peer groups become a lifeline to your strength.
There are many organizations both nationwide, 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 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 online at the Caregiver Action Network.
Take care of yourself and your health
Caregivers have a tendency to focus energy on the person needing care and not enough on one's own health and lifestyle. It leads to health decline, depression, and caregiver stress. Here are stress related symptoms that caregivers experience:
- Tired most of the time
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Feeling irritable
- Getting too much or too little sleep
- Gaining weight
- Losing weight
- Losing interest in social connections and activities
Help yourself in times of stress
- Accept help - Learn to delegate. Make a list of 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 particular disease your loved one has.
- Join a support group - they're an excellent 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 for physical activity 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 to Communicate with Doctors
Learn how to make appointments - explain what problems you have 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:
- The symptoms you're experiencing
- When the symptoms started
- Changes that make the conditions better or worse
- Your questions/concerns
- List of medications: prescriptions, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, herbs, or nutritional supplements.
Practice honesty with the Doctor
- Be above-board on the therapies you've integrated into your health program. Keep the doctor involved.
- Bring someone along with you to have around for a second set of ears.
- Before you leave the doctor's office, be sure you understand the test results and advice.
Be aware of the Signs of Depression
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 common.
Depression can take the pleasure or enjoyment out of things you love.
Fatigue & Sleep
Depression comes with a lack of energy and an overwhelming feeling of lethargy that is debilitating.
Anxiety & Irritability
The physical and mental toll of depression contributes to anxiety and irritability.
Appetite & Weight
Weight and appetite fluctuate 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.
4. Incorporate New Technologies for Home Care
Be open to new technologies that can help you care for your loved one.
5. Organize medical information so it's up to date and easy to find
6. Make sure legal documents are in order.
Give yourself credit and acknowledge that you're doing the best you can!
After seven years of helping her aging parents, Carol Marak has become a dedicated senior care writer. Since 2007, she has been doing the research to find answers to common concerns: housing, aging and health, staying safe and independent, and planning long-term.
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