Taking care of a loved one is a difficult and demanding job, but here are a few tips and tools to help mitigate the pressure and strain you might feel with all of your responsibilities.
First and foremost, if you do not take care of yourself, than you will not be able to take care of your loved one. Surprisingly, one of the biggest problems in caregiving is stress. Stress can lead to serious health problems, therefore, never dismiss your feelings as “just stress.” Meditation, yoga and exercise are all good and rewarding ways to help minimize your stress level.
A helpful tool for caregiving is knowledge. For this job, like most, “knowledge is power.” Before taking care of your loved one, learn everything you can about their situation and condition; this will prepare and instill confidence in you for the care you will provide for your loved one. Be proactive about acquiring information of your loved one’s situation, before taking on the enormous responsibility of taking care of a person. Talking to the doctor is critical. Calling a national organization like NMEDA – National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association which has a plethora of information about accessible vehicles, is an efficient way to obtain relevant information. There are many organizations that are disease specific e.g. Alzheimer’s Association at www.alz.org or the American Diabetes Association at www.diabetes.org. One of their primary objectives of these organizations is to provide resources to families.
Remember that you are never alone; there is a large group of family caregivers in the United States- roughly 65 million. Connecting with other caregivers can provide guidance and is a great way to learn new helpful tips and make new friends. There are many organizations specifically created for caregivers such as CCAN – Caregiver Community Action Network: and the NFCA – The National Family Caregivers Association. You can find support groups in your community and church. In Fairfax County, there is the Fairfax County Family Caregiver Support Program which has resources for all aspects of caregiving including support groups, respite, education and training etc. There is the Fairfax County’s Independent Living Project which is a free multi week series of educational classes including exercise classes for strength and balance, safety home visits.
Caregiving is hard work, but with these helpful tools and tips, it might become just a little easier. Studies have shown that the vast majority of people wish to remain in their own homes. At some point however if it becomes obvious that the person can no longer do so without help then an option is to bring in outside help. This is where calling an agency such as Thrive at Home www.thriveathome.com can help. Thrive at Home will provide a caregiver who is carefully matched to the patient. The caregiver will have the required skills and personality to match the patient. The caregiver can provide help with the activities of daily living e.g. bathing, dressing feeding etc. The caregiver also provides companionship which is a key component of healthy living.