As the family caregiver, your plate is full. You have so many responsibilities you often wonder how you will get through the day. Your spouse, kids, job, and loved one all need you. It can be overwhelming. You are not alone. There are more than 60 million family caregivers in the US today. While balancing your responsibilities is no easy task, it is important to remember you are doing an important and wonderful thing.
The number of family caregivers in the US is increasing every year. With increasing life expectancies and advancing medical treatments, more Americans can expect to join the ranks of family caregivers in the future. It’s important to support our caregivers as they give so much of themselves to others.
If your family member is in need of care, what can you do to prepare for your future as the family caregiver?
- Educate yourself. Learn as much you can about your family member’s illness. Knowing what to expect in terms of symptoms and the progression of their illness can help you to feel less anxiety about the future. It will also help you to know what questions to ask if you attend doctor appointments with your family member.
- Find support. Frustration is likely to set in. It can be helpful to have someone you can turn to who can identify with what you’re going through and provide advice or comfort. There are many local and online support groups for family caregivers. Find one that can be an outlet for you.
- Ask for help. You can’t do it all alone. It’s ok to know your limits and ask for help. Family members, friends and professional caregivers can help to lighten the load. You just have to ask for help.
All too often, family caregivers get bogged down in day to day activities and forget that there are many ways they can receive support from their family and outside sources. From delegating tasks like cooking or running errands to asking for help with managing complicated financial documents, there are many ways your family and friends can lend a hand to lighten your load. You simply need to gather together a list of the tasks you can’t handle and ask for help.
Many family caregivers in need of assistance turn to professional care giving agencies, like Visiting Angels, for respite care services. Respite care provides the temporary relief family caregivers need to refresh and recharge. “Respite care allows you to get away and spend some time focusing on your own health and well-being. It is a necessary and important aspect of being a caregiver. It helps you to refocus and prevents caregiver burnout,” comments Larry Meigs, President and CEO of Visiting Angels.
As a family caregiver, it is as important that you take care of yourself, as is it is that you take care of your loved one. In addition to scheduling respite care for your family member, you can take these steps to ensure you stay at the top of your game.
- Keep a journal as a way to document and give release to your emotions.
- De-stress when needed. Try yoga, meditation, or other activities that help to relieve stress.
- Turn to a support group to talk through your feelings.
- Keep a balance of activities in your life. Keep seeing friends, reading books or visiting places you enjoy. Do things that make you happy.
- Eat right and exercise regularly. This will keep you healthy and energized. Exercise is also a great way to relieve stress.
- Get enough sleep so you can stay productive, level headed and keep your energy level up.
Being the family caregiver isn’t easy. It’s a job that requires constant dedication and it is often thankless. Your loved one needs you and you can help them find peace during this difficult time. Take care of yourself so you can take care of them.