Many people will act as caregivers for a loved one at some point in their lives. It may happen slowly, starting by taking someone to a few appointments or the grocery store. Then, slowly, realizing you are doing more and more. This may be triggered by a major event such as an accident or sudden illness. At some point, you have committed to taking care of another person.
Caregivers can be neighbors, friends, spouses, adult children, or other relatives. While caregiving is rewarding, the physical and emotional toll it can take on is significant. Often, caregivers have many other responsibilities such as a job, volunteer position, a family to care for and social commitments. It can easy to become overwhelmed by caring for another person’s needs. Here are a few tips to help:
1. Get a good diagnosis. This will help you better understand the care that is needed as well as any skills you may need to learn, such as how to safely transfer someone from a wheelchair to a vehicle, or operating medical equipment such as an oxygen tank.
2. Bring loved ones together to discuss care. Talk about how everyone would like to be kept informed and decide how responsibilities should be divided. Someone who loves to cook may want to bring over a meal, while another may be more comfortable filling prescriptions.
3. Learn which resources are available in your area. Speak with your doctor about home health options. Inquire about Meals on Wheels. For example, Legacy Assisted Living offers respite care, where a person can stay temporarily before returning home, offering the caregiver some much-needed rest.
4. Find support for yourself. Lean on friends, family and neighbors who are willing to help. When they offer, suggest a few tasks and allow them to choose. Let a friend sit with your loved one while you run a few errands, or mow the lawn on a Saturday morning. Remember, you must care for yourself, too.
5. Connect with other caregivers in your area. Others who have been through something similar can offer understanding, information and guidance. Coon Memorial Hospital hosts a Caregiver Luncheon each month.
Although it is challenging, caring for a loved one is so rewarding. By honoring your own needs, you will be better equipped to care for another over time.