April 9, 2013

Caregiving to a Parent or Loved One – Part 3

Part 3 of 3 parts

Why is it that caregivers don't feel that they can take care of themselves? Yes, they feel that this is a luxury while caring for others, but stop and think about it. If you burn yourself out, you will have nothing left to give to those that need it!  Harsh, not even,  I have seen people that were caring for a parent or spouse that did not take time for themselves. One ended up in the emergency room because he hadn't taken care of his needs and was hospitalized, his wife died the same day. His family was left to take care of the funeral. The other killed herself with exhaustion and her parent who was near death, lived for six more years.

The only advice I can give is to call on others and locate service agencies, even hospice to help if this is necessary. To be able effectively to continue to be a caregiver, you must take care of yourself. You may not be able completely to avoid stress, but you should be able to reduce it. The following steps may help to minimize the stress pressure:

Stay Connected: Here I am not talking about the person you are caring for or even your immediate family. They are important, but will not give you the stress release you need. If you have a caregiver group where you live, investigate this before you become too busy to do so. Do not forget friends that you have and that you may have shut out as you have become busier with caregiving. Even a walk around the neighborhood can keep you in touch with your neighbors and walking will help relieve some stress. Sometimes is necessary to think outside the family or the box if you must.

Accept Help: Many caregivers pass on this and have only themselves to blame when they are overstressed. Many friends and people known to you or your loved one may sincerely make an offer of help, but because you haven't thought about it, you don't accept the help. Always think about what they could do or how they could help. Rather than dismiss them, say you have not thought about it, but you will and ask when it would be best to contact them. Then do think about it and if they are able, they may be able to sit with your parent or loved one while you take a two or three hour break. If special meals are not a requirement, maybe a cooked dish would prevent you from cooking a meal or two. They will appreciate being able to help and may help you relax. Never forget community resources which may give you a much-needed time to rejuvenate.

Find Time Alone: This is important for your well-being! If you are the sole caregiver, an hour or two way from duties may relieve stress and give you the needed break that will help your health and revitalize you. This may be the time to go for a brisk walk, or go to a nearby park and just sit and watch others. This also may help you avoid burnout.

Maintain a Hobby: This will depend on you and what hobbies you already have or maybe willing to start. Let you imagination run with this one. This link provides a few that may be possible, depending on the season and the type of care your parent or loved one requires. Some may provide the stress relief you need and others may add to the stress, but this can depend on you. I knew one caregiver of a spouse that used her photography hobby to do an inventory of the house and then the area of the neighborhood. Her children were later very happy with the results.

Stay Informed: I like the suggestion the article provides, but also stay informed about what the news is, the local weather, and what others are doing. One caregiver of a parent used letters to pass the latest news on the condition of the parent and then had letters to read to her parent about other family members.

Researching on the internet may yield unsettling information and if you are not aware of it, sometime very questionable information. Use this to converse with the parent's doctor and let them know you want accurate information. This will provide information about what to expect and how fast something may progress.

Stay Spiritually Grounded: I don't care what studies may say, if you are religious or spiritual, stay grounded. Reading the religious teaching of your faith may relieve stress and assist you in accepting the status of your parent or loved one.

Take Care of Yourself: I have stressed this before and I hope it is getting through to you. As a caretaker, you have to take care of yourself, if you want to take care of others. You are no good to them if you lose your health in the process. I will not cover them, but this link may give you additional ideas for self-care. If you experience persistent feelings of fatigue, resentment, or burnout, don’t be afraid to talk to a professional and get some extra support for yourself and your loved one.

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