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Caring for the care-giver

Posted August 21, 2013 in Advice Column

Providing good, quality care to a family member or friend at a time of need can be a very rewarding experience.

If you’re one of more than 65 million Americans who fit the caregiver description, take heed: this month we share some recommendations to help you care for yourself. Warm, fuzzy feelings aside, the stress of being a constant care-giver can be very taxing. Warning signs of caregiver stress can be both emotional and physical. Are you:
•    Feeling overwhelmed and irritable?
•    Constantly feeling tired?
•    Not getting enough sleep or sleeping too much?
•    Losing or gaining a large amount of weight?
• Losing interest in activities that you used to look forward to?

It’s not uncommon for caregivers to feel like they need to do everything on their own. Don’t make that mistake. There are many resources available to provide temporary relief of caregiver duties. The key word here is respite. It means a temporary relief from duties. In terms of providing care, respite is taking a break to allow yourself time to rest so that you can remain strong for your loved one. There are a variety of respite-type services available. Some examples include:
•    Area Agency on Aging. Contact them for a run down on programs designed to assist older adults that are available in your area.
•    Adult day centers. Often located in churches or community centers, they can provide structured activities and supervision during the day. These can be especially helpful for a caregiver who also works outside of the home.
•    In-home care Home health aides come into the home to provide companionship, nursing care or both.
•    Short-term stay. Many assisted living, memory care and nursing home communities offer a short-term stay to relieve the caregiver of their responsibilities for a few days or weeks.

First and foremost, caregivers must remember that they are not alone. The ongoing, constant demands of care giving can strain even the most hardy care giver. For support, try:
•    Accepting help. Make a mental list of the items you would be happy to hand over to a neighbor or friend. Think grocery shopping, standing in for 30 minutes so you can enjoy fresh air, etc.
•    Joining forces. Connect with others in your same position. The Red Cross, Alzheimer’s Association and local hospitals will offer support groups and special classes on care giving. These can be educational and provide social support.
•    Keeping your personal health a priority. Set goals for physical activity, make time for rest and maintain a healthy diet. Keep your immunizations and screenings current, and be sure your doctor is aware of your care-giver role. Don’t be afraid to share any concerns you may have with him/her.
•    Focusing on the positive. Don’t let guilt creep in about things that are out of your control.

Providing loving care to a friend or family member is hard work. It can also be one of the most gratifying experiences of your life. However, as with most things, balance is key. In order to care for another, you must first care for yourself.

Information provided by Kristen Sheston, assistant administrator, The Continental at St. Joseph’s, 19999 Old Highway 5, Centerville, 641-437-1999.

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