Have you ever been the caregiver for a seriously ill loved one at home? Are you faced with that challenge right now? Or, as a parent or spouse declines with age or a chronic disease, do you see caregiving in your near future?
Caregiving can be exhausting and filled with stress. Many have been thrust into the role and felt unprepared for it. Suddenly, they had to learn things like managing a growing list of medications, how to transfer a fragile person safely into and out of bed, or juggling transportation to more frequent appointments. And that's on top of an already busy life filled with work, family and other obligations.
Help is available -- much of it at no cost -- to assist in dealing with the demands of caregiving. Here are three ways to start:
Stress can be fueled by fear of the unknown and uncertainty.
The more you know about your loved one's illness and how it affects them, the more you can be prepared. Many diseases are addressed by national and state associations who share a lot of information for free.
Community resources for caregivers also are available.
"At Transitions GuidingLights Caregiver Support Center, we provide services such as family caregiver skill training, educational online videos and connections to other caregiver resources," said Franklin Farmer, board chair.
Are other family members able to help you share caregiving duties? Start there. If not, other support may be available.
For example, the United States Department on Aging has a website, eldercare.gov, which helps you find services for older adults by specific need and by zip code. Caregiver support centers also may provide mentoring from experienced caregivers, family matches with others going through similar situations, and a wide variety of support groups, including many based on specific disease or condition.
Get a little "selfish"
You can't take the best care of your loved one if you don't take care of yourself. Make sure you pay attention to these fundamentals so you have the energy and mindset to cope with the stress of caregiving:
Nicole Bruno, co-founder and executive director for Transitions GuidingLights Caregiver Support Center, suggests that you pay attention to these fundamentals so you have the energy and mindset to cope with the stress of caregiving:
- Control your thoughts to stay positive. Thoughts become words. Words become actions. Actions become behaviors. Despite the challenges of caregiving, find time to be grateful for at least three things a day. Read something inspiring each day.
- Eat your vegetables. Or anything healthy, really. Too many carbohydrates and trans fats can add to your body’s toxins. You need your energy to handle caregiving.
- Exercise or go for a walk. The activity will give you a break from caregiving. Increased blood flow helps cleanse the brain, heart and other organs.
- Sleep as much as you can. Research shows that adults typically need at least 7.5 hours of sleep to function at their best. Even if you have to change your sleep patterns to align with the one you’re caring for, don’t deprive yourself.
- Laugh. Watch DVDs or reruns of your favorite funny movies or TV shows. Read a joke book. Laughing releases endorphins, increases oxygen to the body and improves your immune system. So, yes, you can chuckle your way to being a stronger caregiver.
This story was written for our sponsor, Transitions GuidingLights.