Research studies confirm what anyone who has cared for a chronically ill or disabled relative or friend knows firsthand – such a labor of love can exact an enormous physical, emotional, social, and financial toll. All too often those who provide care to others neglect their own need for self-care. Taking care of oneself is essential if the best care is to be provided to another person. Caregivers must learn how to balance their own needs with the needs of someone who needs care.
In 2015, President Obama officially proclaimed November as National Caregivers Month. It is a time to recognize the selfless efforts of caregivers across the country and rededicate ourselves to making sure our caregivers have the support they need to maintain their own well-being and that of the people they love.
There is no single recipe for ensuring that one remains a healthy caregiver but the following basic ingredients appear central:
EDUCATE YOURSELF ABOUT THE DISEASE OR MEDICAL CONDITION
Whether you care for someone with heart disease, stroke or dementia or whether care takes place in your own home or at a distance, many of the daily challenges are similar.
- Learn new information and skills and learn how to adapt to the challenges you encounter.
- Get up-to-date and accurate information through books, fact sheets and brochures regarding your relative's condition.
- Contact the appropriate disease-related organization, that can guide you to other resources such as hospital-based education programs and support groups.
CONSULT WITH OTHER EXPERTS
You may need additional professional help to plan for the future. For instance:
- You may need legal authority to make healthcare and financial decisions on behalf of your relative.
- A certified financial planner may help you prepare for the possibility of expensive care for your relative in an assisted living facility or other chronic-care facilities.
- Getting experts involved as soon as possible may save you a lot of worries later.
- If you are too busy to attend to this matter, make sure someone acts on your behalf to handle it.
TAKING CARE OF YOURSELF
Other family members and friends can play key roles in helping you to share in the care.
- Organize a family meeting so that everyone can get on the same page and find out what each person may or may not be able to offer. All potential sources of help need to be informed about the tasks at hand for both you and the relative in need of care.
- Make a plan with the family and then meet again a month later to evaluate progress.
TAKE TIME FOR RELAXATION AND EXERCISE
Let's face it - helping another person can be hard work.
- Set aside time every day from the work of caregiving or you risk losing yourself to the exclusive needs of another person.
- Diversions are necessary in order to be renewed. Enjoy a hobby, see a movie, take a walk, ride a bike, or take part in any number of leisure time activities. You deserve a sense of normalcy. Something enjoyable should be built into every day, if even for just ten minutes, that reminds you that your needs are important, too. Take care of yourself in ways that are meaningful to you.
USE COMMUNITY RESOURCES
Unfortunately, most caregivers delay looking for help outside their social network until they are virtually exhausted. Here are some great resources to consider:
- Check the local Area Agency on Aging, which administers state and federal funds to help older chronically ill persons and their family caregivers. To find your local Area Agency on Aging, contact the Eldercare Locator (1-800-677-1116 or go to http://www.eldercare.gov)
- Other local agencies target the needs of younger disabled people and their families. Such agencies can help you get a well-deserved break by paying for occasional in-home services by someone to relieve you or providing adult day services for your relative.
- National Family Caregiver Support Program, U.S. Administration on Aging. http://www.aoa.gov/AoARoot/AoA_Program s/HCLTC/Caregiver/index.aspx
- For more information about ACL U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Community Living, Washington DC 20201 Phone: (202) 619 – 0724 Fax: (202) 357 – 3555 Email: [email protected] Web: http://www.aoa.gov
- Caregiver Action Network (CAN) is the nation's leading family caregiver organization. It is working to improve the quality of life for the more than 90 million Americans who care for loved ones with chronic conditions, disabilities, disease, or the frailties of old age. If you are a caregiver, you can find an abundance of helpful information on CAN's website, http://caregiveraction.org.
As always, we want to be a trusted resource for you as do the necessary things for your loved one. Let our team know if we can be a listening ear, an advisor for planning, or a place to come for trusted referrals for other types of service providers. Our team stands ready to help you not only give the best care to your loved ones but also empower you as a caregiver. Call our office at 260-969-1177 if we can help.
Information provided in this fact sheet was adapted from materials submitted by Mather LifeWays Institute on Aging, Evanston, IL. For more information, visit their website http://www.matherlifeways.com.