Caring for the Caregiver
Caregivers really need to be encouraged by society to use respite care - to get out. So many caregivers become ill and they're no longer able to care for the person they are working with. We see that all the time. We're having a big outing tomorrow and many of the caregivers aren't coming because they don't want to leave the person they care for home.
By David Egner
Taking on the responsibility of caregiving is a uniquely challenging experience. The rewards and good feelings of spending more time with a loved one in need can be compromised by the time, planning, coordination, financial commitment and physical rigors that are commonly required. Often lost in the act of giving care is the health and well-being of the caregiver.
When attending to a spouse or loved one, a familiar source of support and affection for the caregiver can suddenly become a source of frustration and worry. Stress in caregiving can come from numerous places, such as dealing with doctors, being isolated, experiencing tough decisions and significant life changes and simply facing an unknown. And it may not show up as the usual fast-beating heart or butterflies or sweaty palms or trembling.
Signs of chronic stress commonly include:
Chronic stress without relief can lead to more serious problems, such as heart disease and depression. Caregivers also commonly experience constant sadness, a burden of obligation and feelings of guilt for not being able to do enough.
Where can you get relief?
Good Health Basics
Taking care of yourself also means having good health habits. It's important to minimize or stop smoking, limit alcohol and caffeine consumption and pay attention to these basics:
For help creating more structured diet and exercise improvements or if you have continued sleep problems, consult your personal physician.
Support groups may be able to provide something that close friends and family cannot - real-life confirmation of what it's like to face the fears and challenges of caregiving.
Where can you find support groups? Medical centers, nursing homes, senior centers, social service agencies, synagogues, churches and temples. National organizations and associations, such as the Alzheimer's Association and Children for Aging Parents, are also good resources for getting local information.
Professional Help Options
If and when your responsibilities as a caregiver become too much to handle, be open to the idea of professional help, whether it be respite care or personal counseling. The following are sound options:
Caregivers need all the help they can get. The more you take on yourself, the more likely you are to succumb to its mental, physical and emotional rigors. And if you become ill, that will only further compromise your ability to deliver care to your loved one.
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