Eight Tips for New Caregivers
A poll in the July 2014 issue of Caring Right at Home found that 75 percent of our readers provide some level of care for senior relatives. Who better to share their advice for those new to the role?
Mom just had a stroke and Dad is having a hard time caring for Mom, his own diabetes, and household chores. This may put you in the position of having to take on new caregiving responsibilities. Caregiving is a demanding role requiring an abundance of patience, compassion and self-care. Here is some advice people who've had some experience with caregiving offer to those who are starting in the role:
Educate yourself. Learn as much as you can about your loved one's diagnosis and what you can expect in both the immediate and not-so-near future. Learning about the changes that are likely to follow will provide you with the information you need to ensure both you and your loved one are well taken care of.
Be gentle with yourself. You will likely go through a range of emotions—grief, anger, resentment and guilt, to name a few. Recognize that these are a normal part of dealing with your new situation and allow yourself to experience each emotion freely as it arises.
Maintain your regular health routine. Continue to exercise, eat well, get enough sleep and keep all medical appointments. Consider learning a stress-management technique such as yoga or tai chi. Keeping yourself healthy is an important part of being the best possible caregiver for your loved one.
Meditate. Find some time to be simply still. Quiet your mind as much as possible whenever things feel like they are moving too fast or you are feeling overwhelmed. One thing most caregivers share is that it's a great challenge to find time for themselves—yet this should be a top priority to allow you to rest and refresh yourself in body, mind and spirit.
Ask for help. Family members and friends often are more than willing to help caregivers with their duties. But they may hesitate to ask. Speak up!
Bring in a professional. Family and friends can be a great help, but this is just the start. Take the time to find out about resources available in your community, such as senior centers and other senior services organizations. Many families find the help of a geriatric care manager to be well worth the fees these experts charge. And to help keep your loved one safe at home while providing respite for you, professional in-home care is an important part of the care plan. In-home caregivers can provide a variety of services, including personal care, medication reminders, meal planning and cooking, transportation, light housekeeping, and companionship.
Take some time off. Getting away, whether it's a week-long trip, a weekend escape, or even a single day indulging in something you love, can make all the difference in maintaining your health and sanity. Ask another family member or friend to stay with your loved one. Or take advantage of respite care provided by a reputable in-home care agency. Knowing your loved one is well cared for will allow you to relax all the more during your time off.
Socialize. Continue spending time with your circle of friends. This will help you maintain a sense of self. But if you sense that you're spending too much of the conversation discussing your loved one and your caregiving challenges, consider joining a support group! Just knowing that you're not alone can provide a real morale boost. Support groups are also a great place to get practical advice and discover the variety of resources available to you. And you'll most likely make some new friends.
Caregiving can be both a highly rewarding and challenging opportunity. By following these tips and ensuring you're taking care of yourself, you can continue to lead a fulfilling and enjoyable life.
For information on topics related to home care and healthcare, visit our Home Care and Healthcare Advocacy group on LinkedIn.