Caregiving for a loved one can be very rewarding and is becoming increasingly commonplace in our graying society. More than 65 million Americans who are not health care professionals provide care for a loved one. Inasmuch as providing care is highly rewarding and a core value to those who want to give back to their parents or care for their spouse, it can be exceedingly difficult and stressful. Over time, it can take a serious toll on one’s health and well being.
In order to continue providing the TLC a caregiver would like to provide for their loved one and keep their sanity, one must take care of their own needs first and foremost; they must care for the caregiver. Here are some things to keep in mind:
Accept help. Many times people will offer help but will be told, “No, I’m fine.” There is no need to pretend that all is well and you are perfectly in control. Make a list of the simple tasks friends and neighbors can help you with, for example, take Mom for a 20 minute walk several times a week or prepare dinner periodically. Maybe someone can pick up some groceries for you or medication from the pharmacy. It’s up to you to accept help when you need it.
Get professional help as well when needed. Professional counseling is available for caregivers, and statistics have shown that caregivers who get the counseling they need are more apt to be able handle difficult situations and recognize the needs of the care receiver. Also, getting Medicaid to cover long-term care is a difficult process and you may need help with that. There are many qualified Medicaid planning companies and eldercare attorneys who can assist you with that. Don’t try to be everywhere at once; stay focused on caregiving while the professionals do their part. It will surely help reduce much stress.
Go for a walk. This is a very effective way of releasing stress and gives you some much-needed quiet time. Walking is good for your mind, your body and your spirit. Researchers at the University of California at San Francisco studied the brain function of roughly 6,000 women over an eight-year period and concluded that those women who walked several times a week were less likely to have age-related mental decline. The physical benefits are also well known, including a healthier heart, lungs and circulatory system.
Laugh daily. Laugh even if you don’t feel like it. Studies have shown that laughter increases your blood-flow, strengthens your immune system and lowers your blood pressure. For a great post on the benefits of humor and laughter for caregivers, click here.
Join a support group. When you join a support group you know you not alone, learn to accept help and get the opportunity to share in a safe, nonjudgmental environment. You also find resources and form new friendships. The key is; don’t try to be superman. Everybody out there also needs help. Join a support group today.
Stay connected to family and friends. Make it a point to get together with a friend or sibling at least once a week a do something exciting together. The benefit this will have on your overall mood and health cannot be overstated. This is also a good opportunity to ‘let your guard down’ about your caregiving abilities and share your strengths and weaknesses as a caregiver with a close friend.
Conclusion: Caregiving is an altruistic and compassionate form of benevolence and probably the greatest gift you can bestow on a loved one, but don’t forget to take care of the caregiver, as well!
Fay D. – Senior-Planning Services.com