There are many ways to manage care provider’s load and avoid burning out. Providing assistance can be isolating so make sure you have a support system of people you trust to help you through the difficult and lonely times. Whether it is other caregivers, family members, friends, or a counselor, it is important to have someone that will listen to and support you.
Do not be afraid to ask for help.
Communicate with your friends and family so they are aware of your situation and suggest specific things people can do to help you. If this isn’t possible you can hire professional respite care to provide temporary caregiving while you rest and recharge. It’s important to educate yourself. Knowing more about symptoms, side effects, and treatment options can help you feel more confident and in control. It will enable you to participate more fully in your partner’s healthcare decisions, and adapt more easily to changes in their treatment plan. Be open to new technologies that can help you care for your loved one.
Good communication is key to decreasing caregiver burden. Attend doctor’s appointments and discuss your loved one’s plan of care with health care professionals, including risks and benefits of treatment options. Being able to express your needs during these visits is important. Be sure you understand the information you are given and don’t hesitate to ask questions, if you need to.
Communicating with your partner about their needs, as well as yours, can help maintain a healthy relationship with them. It also enables you to effectively inform clinicians about changes in your loved one’s health and behavior, as well as better participate in health care decisions. Staying organized can help keep stress to a minimum and free up more time to do the things you enjoy. Ways to stay organized might include keeping a journal to track your partner’s symptoms or medication side effects, among other things. Calendars can be useful for appointments, or to keep track of when to give medications. Keep a list of important phone numbers handy. Organize medical information so it is up-to date and easy to find. In general, it’s a good idea to make sure legal documents are in order.
Caregivers frequently forget to take care of themselves. The phrase, “you can’t pour from an empty cup” rings very true in this circumstance. If you don’t take the time to attend to your own needs, you run the risk of becoming depressed, having feelings of resentment toward your loved one, or losing other relationships. These are just a few consequences of putting your own health and wellbeing second to your role as a caregiver. Maintain your physical health by eating well, and getting plenty of sleep and exercise. Make time for your medical checkups and other appointments. Your mental health is important, too. Schedule time for yourself to refresh and do things you enjoy. If stress is a problem, a variety of therapies might help, including massage, prayer, yoga, or music therapy. Other activities that may help to stay grounded are exercising or simply spending time with a family pet. It’s important to watch for signs of depression and don’t delay getting professional help if you need it. Above all else, keep a sense of humor and don’t be too hard on yourself, it helps to lighten the stress of the moment and long term.
There are a number of excellent resources for caregivers that offer information and support free of charge. Founded in the late 1970’s, the Family Caregiver Alliance (FCA) is the first community-based nonprofit organization in the country to address the needs of caregivers. FCA’s Family Care Navigator provides state-by-state resources for caregivers, including respite providers. The Caregiver Action Network (CAN) is a nonprofit organization that provides education, peer support and resources to family caregivers across the country. CAN resources include an online caregiver forum. This is a good resource if you want to share a piece of advice, or if you feel isolated or depressed and want to talk with others going through the same experience.
In the event of an emergency on an airplane, an oxygen mask drops in front of you.
The first safety instruction is to put your own mask on before assisting anyone else.
The same principle applies for caregivers. Self-care is one of the most important, and yet one of the most often forgotten, things a caregiver should do. When your needs are taken care of, the person you care for will benefit, too. The day-to-day wear and tear of being an caregiver can really add up. By taking steps to educate yourself, keep open lines of communication with your loved one and their healthcare providers, reduce stress and take care of yourself, you’ll find your burden may be lighter and you’ll have an easier time taking care of your loved one.