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Friday, September 9, 2016

Caregiver Considerations

We’ve talked so much about caregiver stress that the phrase barely packs a punch anymore. You’ve heard all the “cliché advice” from make time for yourself to share the load. It all sounds so reasonable and within reach, unless, of course, you’re the caregiver.

Caregivers are well-acquainted with guilt, self-doubt, conflict, and exhaustion. Their days are characterized with highs and lows, dilemmas and predicaments, anxiety and resolve. It’s an emotional roller coaster that requires tremendous strength of character and devotion. It’s not all doom and gloom, but there is a reason we spend so much time talking about it. The stress is real. The experience is consuming. The path is unpredictable.

1. LEARN about your loved one’s condition
Being in the know will help to reduce stress and fear. Learn everything you can by consulting with physicians, visiting your local library and becoming acquainted with community resources.

2. PLAN ahead
Once you have educated yourself about your loved one’s condition, devise a plan that includes choosing potential healthcare providers in advance, preparing advance directives, and getting financial and legal affairs in order.

3. PRACTICE self-care
Taking care of yourself makes it possible for you to continue to be a caregiver to your loved one. Capable caregivers find the time to eat right, exercise, sleep and even schedule daily quiet time for relaxation, mediation or prayer.

4. CELEBRATE moments & make memories
Embrace the chance to live in the moment and enjoy your loved one when opportunities for laughter and intimacy present.  Allowing yourself to enjoy those moments as they unfold can go a long away in alleviating stress.

5. KNOW that you will make mistakes 
Making mistakes opens up the possibility of finding a better way to do things. At the end of the day, it won’t be the mistakes that matter. What matters is your willingness to keep putting one step in front of the other as you continue to care for your loved one.

6. TRY NOT to be a control freak
Trying to control every aspect of care will prove impossible for you and also work to alienate those willing to help. Folks will be less likely to help if you micromanage or bark orders.

7. ASK for help
You can do anything, but not everything. The next time a well-meaning neighbor, friend or family member asked what they can do to help, tell them. Make a list of chores that you could use help with and share the load.

8. RESPITE care
Adult day care, private duty home care, or even a brief stay at an assisted living or skilled nursing facility for your loved one may be helpful and/or necessary. Taking a break when you need one is another way of practicing self-care.

9. LEARN about signs & symptoms 
You are at increased risk for physical and mental health problems including depression. Once you burnout, care-giving is no longer a healthy solution for you or your loved one. That’s why it is so important to watch for warning signs and seek professional help when needed.

Being a caregiver is truly a labor of love. If you find yourself becoming too overwhelmed to continue being the sole caregiver, consider hiring a reputable private duty home care agency to help alleviate some of the burden.