Coping as a Caregiver
At some stage in our life, most of us will find ourselves in the role of ‘caregiver’. Some of us helped care for younger siblings growing up, or, in the unfortunate situation of caring for a family member with an illness, or unable to care for themselves. Caring comes naturally to some, but even in those circumstances, caregiver fatigue can be a reality in the lives of caregivers. As a growing population ages, more and more people are finding themselves in a caregiver role.
Q) What constitutes a caregiver?
A) A caregiver is anyone who provides help to another person in need. This could be an ill spouse or partner, a disabled child or an aging relative. Often, family members who are actively caring for an older adult often don’t self-identify as a “caregiver.” As the population ages, more care is being provided by people who aren’t health care professionals. These informal caregivers provide 80 percent of long-term care in the United States.
Q) What are common points of stress for caregivers?
A) Caring for those you love comes naturally to most. Even though you may want to be the main person providing care for a loved one, it is important to take note of things that may cause extra burdens in your life, such as:
- Living with the person for which you are caring
- Social isolation
- Financial difficulties
- Higher number of hours spent caregiving
- Lack of coping skills and difficulty solving problems
- Lack of choice in being a caregiver
If any of the above situations apply to you, take note, and make a plan to get the help you need and deserve.
Q) How can I find support?
A) It is so important to take advantage of resources and tools available to help you provide care for your loved one. Remember, if you don’t take care of yourself, you won’t be able to care for anyone else.
Here are some practical tips to help aide you in your caregiver process:
- Find a support group:No one knows what you are going through better than someone who is going through it themselves. Many community organizations offer free support groups and resources to aide in your caregiving process. Support groups provide an outlet for socializing, as well as problem-solving tips and the opportunity to connect with other caregivers.
- Ask for help:Prepare a list of ways others can help you. Let the helper choose what they would like to do. It could look like staying with your loved one while you go the gym, a movie or some activity to give you valuable ‘you’ time.
- Focus on the care you are able to provide:No one person is perfect. As a caregiver, you may feel guilt at times about decisions you have made, or about the level of care you are able to provide for your loved one. Take time daily to focus on the tasks at hand, and believe you are doing your best.
- Set achievable goals:Find a schedule and routine that works for you and your loved one. Prioritize tasks, and don’t forget to ask for help when you need it. Do you usually host family for the holidays? Let others know where you could use a hand, and allow others to help in your world of caregiving.
- See your doctor.Stay up-to-date with yearly screenings and vaccinations to protect yourself, and those for whom you are caring. Tell your doctor you are a caregiver. Discuss any concerns you may have about yourself, such as sleep patterns, diet and exercise, stress levels, etc.
Q) What if I need to take time away from my loved one?
A) Respite care is a completely normal process of being a caregiver. Research local organizations who provide in-home, or on-site respite care. If you have an event you need to travel for, or just need a few days to yourself, respite care is an excellent option to provide quality care for your loved one while you take care of you.
For more information on caregiver support visit www.webmd.com or www.mayoclinic.com. The Visiting Nurse Association provides free caregiver support groups throughout Indian River County, and can provide respite care for you and your loved one. For more information, please call 772-567-5551.
Since 1975, the VNA has been committed to bringing skilled, compassionate, and cost-effective home health care to Indian River County patients. For more information about VNA services, call 772.567.5551 or visit www.vnatc.com.