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Caregivers Rx: A Dose of Your Own Medicine!

The intense physical and emotional demands of caregiving will take their toll on even the strongest, most disciplined person.  It is very important, then, to recognize the telltale signs of caregiver fatigue.  We cannot help our loved ones if we ourselves collapse under the considerable strain that comes with the caregiving territory.

Here are some tips for dealing with the stress:

  • Get informed.  Local hospitals may have classes specifically about the disease or condition your loved one is enduring.  And organizations such as Hospice, the Red Cross and the Alzheimer’s Association regularly offer classes on caregiving.
  • Accept help.  Make a list of the ways that others can help you and let the helper choose from that list what he or she would like to do.  One friend might be happy to take the person you are looking after for a drive or a walk a few times a week.  Another might make the library run for you, or pick up some groceries.
  • Don’t give in to guilt: Feeling guilty or inadequate to the task is perfectly normal.  Understand, however, that there is no ‘perfect’ caregiver.  You are doing your best at any given time.  The housework may not get done on schedule; you may eat the same thing for three days in a row.  That’s okay.  And, again, do not feel guilty about asking for help.
  • Join a support group. A support group can be a wonderful source of encouragement and advice from others in the same circumstances.  You may well make some new friends that way, too.
  • Commit to staying healthy. Eating properly is essential.  So is getting your rest.  Take care of your own grooming, too.  And find the time to be physically active every day.
  • Stay connected.  Make a sincere effort to stay in touch with family and friends.  Set aside time for socializing (even if it’s just a walk with a friend, or a cup of tea and a chat).  Make plans that get you out of the house regularly.
  • See  your doctor. And make sure your doctor knows you are a caregiver.  Get your flu shot and any recommended screenings.  Do not forget to mention any concerns or symptoms you have.
Taking a break is thought to be one of the best things you can do for yourself, as well as for the person you are looking after.  While is may be difficult to leave your ‘patient’, you will both benefit from the time apart.  Many communities have some sort of respite care available, including:
  • Adult care centers. Adult care centers are often located in churches or community centers.  Some centers provide care for young children as well as the elderly; the groups may even spend some time together.
  • In-home respite.  Home care aides can come to the house to provide nursing services, companionship, or both.
  • Day hospitals.  There are programs at hospitals that provide medical care during the day, freeing you to run errands, see friends, get some work done, whatever.  Your loved one returns home in the evening.
  • Short-term nursing homes. Some nursing homes, assisted living homes and memory care facilities accept patients for short stays while their caregivers are away.

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