8 Tips for Family Caregivers
“Because caregiver burnout is a serious concern, it’s important for caregivers to create time for themselves and to focus on their own physical, mental, and spiritual health. When a caregiver ends up with a health crisis, more often than not, the care receiver can no longer stay at home.” —Julie Ellingson, LSW
2. Watch out for signs of depression, and don’t delay in getting professional help when you need it.
“This past year of caring for my mom has been a lot of hard work, and you just can’t be up and positive all the time. You will be sad and depressed. When this happens, it’s important to seek professional help or find a support group for the depression. You think you shouldn’t be sad or grieving, but you’ve lost a part of someone you’ve known for a lifetime.” —Right at Home caregiver Jody
3. When people offer to help, accept the offer and suggest specific things that they can do.
“If you can’t think of anything immediately, take down their name and number, and then call them when you have something for them to do.” —Julie Ellingson, LSW
“The library and the worldwide web are good places to research the disease with which you are dealing, as are organizations such as the American Cancer Society, the Alzheimer’s Association, the Parkinson’s Foundation, etc. Others in the same situation can help you learn, as well as share with you their resources, information, and experiences. Be prepared when visiting the doctor to maximize your time. Write your questions down as you think of them, and bring the written questions with you when you visit the doctor. Take notes, and don’t be afraid to ask the doctor to repeat if you didn’t hear or understand what he said. If it’s not clear, ask him to put the information in words that you can understand.” —Julie Ellingson, LSW
5. There’s a difference between caring and doing. Be open to technologies and ideas that promote your loved one’s independence.
“Nobody becomes an expert in senior care until they’ve walked the road. As you contemplate options for your parents and other elderly family members, be aware that there are, indeed, a myriad of choices available to you. You may know of one option, but there may be a half-dozen other options better suited to your parents’ needs.” —Julie Ellingson, LSW
“Use good posture and remember good body mechanics to lessen the chance of injuring yourself. If you need to transfer (lift) your loved one, get proper training and use proper equipment (such as a transfer belt). If you have pain, seek medical attention! Chronic pain over time can be debilitating.” —Julie Ellingson, LSW
7. Grieve for your losses, and then allow yourself to dream new dreams.
“Get the help you need so that you can spend your energy enjoying the precious time that you have [with your loved one]. You can create new memories, and it’s worth every minute.” —Right at Home caregiver Jody
8. Seek support from other caregivers. There is great strength in knowing you are not alone.
“The burdens of being a family caregiver are such that I would actually implore anyone who is providing care for an elderly person with a chronic disease to seek out a support group. Implore is a strong word, and I don’t use it lightly. I have seen this need first hand; I have facilitated a support group for the adult children of persons with Alzheimer’s Disease for the past 10 years. I can’t tell you how many times I have witnessed the benefits that those who attend my group receive from each other. Other people can sympathize with the struggles you deal with as a caregiver, but those you encounter in a support group can empathize with you, and you will be able to see it in their eyes! To find a group, search the Internet for ‘support groups’ and the disease that you are dealing with.” —Paul Blom, Right at Home Owner and CEO
Original tips compiled by the National Family Caregivers Association.
Additional insights provided by the care staff of Right at Home, a non-medical senior care provider.
As a family caregiver, what tips would you share with others on the same journey? We’d love to hear your comments!