At some point, most of us will be concerned with caring for an aging relative or loved one. Caregiving is stressful! Studies indicate that caregivers report trouble in finding time for themselves, have difficulty managing emotional and physical stress, and trouble balancing work and family responsibilities. In addition, caregivers need help in keeping safe the person they care for; help talking with doctors and making end-of-life decisions. The stress of caregiving has a physical effect, as well. Caregivers have chronic conditions at nearly twice the rate of non-caregivers.
Obviously, there are barriers to caregiver health. A big one is lack of access to such help as health services, respite care, support groups, or information. A tired, dispirited person with feelings of guilt lacks motivation to seek help. Other barriers include an inability to pay for formal services and competing demands on the caregiver’s time.
If you are a caregiver, how do you handle these problems?
- Take care of yourself!
- Get a yearly checkup, and tell your doctor that you are a caregiver.
- Tell your doctor if you feel depressed or nervous — don’t dismiss your feelings as “just stress.”
- Keep up on your immunizations — a dose of flu vaccine to the caregiver is also a layer of protection for the person receiving care.
- And it may sound like a cliché, but it’s most important to eat healthy, exercise regularly, and get enough rest.
- Educate yourself about the disease or condition affecting the person you are caring for. Up-to-date information is available from the doctor. Ask for brochures and fact sheets. Look for information at your local library. Contact organizations that are related to the disease or condition —you can tap into their experience and expertise. And the Internet is a great resource for searching out information.
- To help at the time of the doctor visit, write a short list of questions, and be sure they are answered before you leave. Good doctors understand the impact of caregiving.
- Consult other experts, too. For example, a certified financial planner may be an economic necessity; and an attorney may be needed for legal concerns such as power of attorney, wills, advance directives, and living wills. Addressing such issues early may save a lot of worry later.
Now, let’s go to more personal support…
- Learn to tap into your social resources. Organize a family meeting to get everyone on the same page. Find out what each person can offer, and develop a plan of care. Meet on a regular basis to evaluate the plan and adjust it as needed.
- Find a confidante is essential. You’re an easy target for the venting of frustration and anger from your disabled relative. A good friend or counselor will share your burden and help you find ways to cope.
- Polish your sense of humor and keep it honed. Seeing the humor in difficult situations can bring a good deal of relief — to you AND the person you’re caring for — and taking a light-hearted view can actually alter the meaning of a situation. If you are not naturally funny, look for jokes, comics and funny movies to fill the void.
- Set aside time every day for your own relaxation and exercise. Diversions are essential for fighting stress, and physical activity makes you feel better and keeps you healthy. Enjoy a hobby, take a walk, or see a movie with a friend — something you can look forward to, something that makes you smile and relax.
- Use resources from the community.
MorseLife has a care management program that provides counsel, guidance, referral and support to caregivers and those they are caring for. MorseLife also offer home health care services, meals-on-wheels, adult day programs, and if necessary, long term care options.
Positive Aspects of Being a Caregiver
Facing the diagnosis and planning the care can BRING YOU CLOSER to your loved one. Another positive is that, in reaching out for support when you need it, you will be meeting new people and making new friends. You may become mutual supporters in the caregiving world that you yourself may need one day.
Caregiving is a great effort and a huge undertaking. You can do it and MorseLife is here to help you along the way.
MorseLife Care Management: (561) 209-6174
MorseLife Home Care: (561) 616-0707