“Sometimes it helps to know that I just can’t do it all. One step at a time is all that’s possible— even when those steps are taken on the run.”
—Anne W. Schaef
1. Get as much help as you can, as early as you can, for as long as you can.
It is normal to feel a full range of emotions as you manage your new role as caregiver. You may love the one who is ill, while still experiencing sadness, anger, or fear. At times you may resent the effect caregiving has on your life. If you find yourself overwhelmed, reach out to family or friends, or speak with a professional.
2. Ensuring your own health is the best way to take care of others.
If you are sick or unable to function, you won’t be able to look after the people who depend on you for support. Take time to manage your health and to refresh your mind and spirit.
3. Just as you give love to so many, become willing to accept love from others.
Give others the opportunity to take care of you. Ask family and friends to handle tasks such as errands, groceries, rides, housekeeping, laundry, or meal preparation. Family and friends often want to help but they don’t know what you need. Tell them!
4. Your relative may not need (or want) you as much as you think.
The elderly fear the loss of independence and moving out of their own home and into a nursing home, far more than they fear death. Involve your loved one in decisions and give them opportunities to stay involved. Let them continue to use the abilities they have, such as making clothing choices for the day, making a sandwich, and performing basic hygiene.
5. Take time for you.
Give yourself permission to maintain your own life as much as possible. Take breaks from caregiving.
6. Keep a sense of humor and your perspective.
As they say—laughter is the best medicine. Experience something funny each day. While the caregiver role is not funny, you may have situations that on reflection are quite humorous. Remember, none of us is perfect. We make mistakes, learn, and try again. You can’t do it all, and you will ruin your health trying. Keep a realistic perspective by knowing in your heart that, even on the worst of days, you are doing the very best you can.
7. Join a support group or online community for caregivers.
This will let you know that you are not alone. You will learn coping strategies and meet others who understand what you are going through.
The seven caregiver hints and portions of their descriptions come directly from Christine Jette, RN. Used with permission from The Grieving Heart, Caring for the Caregiver.
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