As a caregiver, you give your love, attention and often more of yourself to those in your care, than you give to yourself. There are over 65 million “informal” caregivers (spouse, family, partner or neighbor) in the U.S. caring for someone who is ill, disabled or aged. Care provided varies from offering rides to and from the grocery store to your elderly neighbor, assisting a family member with daily activities, to around-the-clock care.
While caring for your loved one can be rewarding, it can also be very stressful and can actually cause stress-related illnesses to the caregiver. Juggling medication schedules, medical appointments, daily activities and your own personal responsibilities can cause complications and could potentially be at risk for errors. To avoid burnout, it’s important to get help before getting overwhelmed. Here are a few tips to make sure you are taking care of yourself so you can care for your loved one.
- Ask for help. Help could come in the form of a local respite program if your loved one qualifies, a trustworthy friend or neighbor, or contact a professional. Local agencies can offer licensed, fully screened and trusted nursing professionals to come into the home and provide care as little or as often as you need.
- Help your loved one help themselves. Install grab bars or no-slip seats in the bath or shower. Set up a weekly pill box if your loved one is able to administer their own medications. By providing ease of use options you are allowing your loved one the independence they may be missing.
- Take care of yourself. It is easy to forget about caring for yourself when someone else is so dependent upon you. Be sure you are eating right, exercising and taking time to relax. Making sure you are healthy and fit will allow you to better care for others. Also, be sure to watch for signs of depression – and seek help if you need it!
- Talk. Sharing your feelings can help relieve some stress. Joining a support group in your area can offer a shoulder when you are looking for someone who can relate to your experiences.
- Don’t take things personally. Older individuals with dementia or other with mental or emotional issues may say hurtful things, but remind yourself it isn’t out of malice, it is because of their illness.
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