Tips for caregivers

Every day, more than 50 million Americans provide care for a chronically ill, disabled or aged family member or friend, according to the National Family Caregivers Association.

by Sharyle Price — 

Every day, more than 50 million Americans provide care for a chronically ill, disabled or aged family member or friend, according to the National Family Caregivers Association. In spite of this large number, people routinely underestimate the amount of time they may spend as a family caregiver. All told, the average duration for a caregiving term is now about eight years.

Combine guilt, frustration, increasing responsibilities, lack of time, work and family pressures and you have the unfortunate predicament facing the “Sandwich Generation.” This term has been coined to describe the growing number of people who are taking care of their aging parents and their children at the same time. Almost 80 percent of these caregivers are women, and more than half are in the workforce.

Caregivers often find that taking care of themselves gets shoved to the back burner. However, the more anyone neglects him- or herself, the less effective they will be as a caregiver. One of the best things a caregiver can do for their patient is to take good care of themselves first.

Suggestions to help you care for yourself while caring for others

  • Schedule regular afternoons or evenings out.
  • If you cannot leave, lift your spirits via a phone conversation with a friend or family member.
  • Eat nutritious meals. Do not give in to stress-driven urges for sweets or alcohol.
  • Get enough sleep. If you must be up at night, make sure to nap during the day.
  • Take time to pamper yourself and relax each day — light candles, take a warm bath and rest.
  • Exercise regularly, even if it means finding someone to provide care while you walk or attend an exercise class.
  • Make a list of jobs you need help with and find someone who can assist you.
  • If possible, arrange for adult day care for your loved one. This will allow time for errands and personal needs, as well as provide health monitoring, transportation, nursing care and therapeutic recreation for your loved one.
  • Join a support group. If you cannot leave the house, think about an Internet-based support group.
  • Draw strength from your faith. Home visits from a member of your church can help you stay in touch with your spiritual community.
  • Hire a temporary caregiver from a respite care program.
  • Plan a weekend getaway or a weeklong vacation.
  • Learn about the community resources available to help you.

 

Sharyle Price is program director at the Caregiver Resource Institute. 623-583-4490, sprice@vfhaz.org or www.vfhaz.org. 

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 25, Number 4, August/September 2006.

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