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Caring for the Caregiver

Caring for the Caregiver

As you may have experienced, caring for a loved one is not easy, nor is it something most of us are prepared to do. Like most people, you have probably had questions about your loved one’s illness or condition, and have spent time finding answers to those questions. 

It is important that you learn about the basics of caregiving, and better understand how to provide care, However, there may still be times when you feel overwhelmed or unable to care for your loved one’s or friend’s needs. 

Remember, taking care of your needs is important. Review this information and practical tips for managing the responsibilities of being a caregiver. Though they may seem selfish, they are not! Caregivers must care for themselves to remain healthy both physically and mentally.

Understanding Caregiver Stress

Fulfilling the role of a caregiver can be both challenging and stressful. To learn more about caregiver stress, watch our video – Understanding Caregiver Stress

Assistance for Caregivers

As caregivers, we sometimes become so involved in the day-to-day efforts to keep things going we may forget to let others know we need additional assistance with providing care, or just need a break from the work of caring for someone.

Some ways to make your needs known include:

  • Work options. If you are a working caregiver, it is important to discuss your needs with your employer. Telecommuting, flextime, job sharing or rearranging your schedule can help to minimize stress. Increasingly, companies are offering resource materials, counseling, and training programs to help caregivers.
  • Involve older children. Older children living at home may be able to assist you and/or your loved one. Such responsibility can help young people become more empathic, responsible, and self-confident and give you needed support.
  • Ask others to help. You can and should ask others to share in caregiving. A family conference can help sort out everyone’s tasks and schedules. Friends and neighbors also may be willing to provide transportation, respite care, and help with shopping, household chores or repairs.
  • Create a list of things that need to be done, such as grocery shopping, laundry, errands, lawn care, housecleaning, or spending time with your loved one, and put it on the refrigerator or near the front door. If someone says, “let me know if there is anything I can do to help” you can point to the list.
  • Take a break from caregiving. Even if it is only 15 or 20 minutes a day, make sure you do something just for you.
  • Exercise. Whether it is a 20 minute walk outside or taking a yoga class, exercising is a great way to take a break, decrease stress and enhance your energy.
  • Eat healthy. Your health and nutrition is just as important as your loved one's, so take the time to eat well. If you are having difficulty doing that, ask for help and get others to prepare meals for you.
  • Subscribe to caregiving newsletters for support.
  • Attend a support group for caregivers. Check with your doctor, hospice or local Area Agency on Aging for groups that meet for this purpose.
  • Seek professional help. Many caregivers have times when they feel lonely, anxious, guilty, angry, scared, frustrated, confused, lost and tired. If you feel like these feelings are overwhelming you, ask your doctor, hospice or another community resource for help.

Understanding Caregiver Respite

Respite provides caregivers a break from their daily responsibilities. Respite can cover a wide range of services based upon the unique needs of the caregiver. Watch Care, Support & ALS to learn how caregiver respite can help caregivers:

Caregiver Respite-Taking a Break

Respite can include a variety of services and each situation is different. Respite might mean:

  • Medical or social adult day care for the loved one
  • A short-term stay in a nursing home or assisted living facility for the loved one
  • A home health aide or home health companion
  • A private duty nurse

Respite for the caregiver might be:

  • Giving the caregiver a short break for a doctor’s appointment or to go shopping
  • Allowing the caregiver the opportunity to nap, bathe, or otherwise rejuvenate
  • A break to attend a church service or see a movie
  • Taking a much needed vacation
  • Pampering oneself with a hair appointment or manicure
  • Scheduling elective surgery
  • Simply visiting friends or other family members

However if you choose to take a break, make sure you do it often enough to maintain a healthy balance between caregiving and your personal needs.