“I lift my eyes to the hills—where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.” —Psalm 121:1–2
I believe that one of the most challenging, and rewarding, opportunities that I have had in my life was being a caregiver for a family member. Was it hard? You bet. Did I sometimes want to take the next flight to a tropical island and not come back? More often than I probably should have. Do I feel like it made a difference in my life and my mom’s life? Absolutely! November is National Family Caregivers Month and the theme for 2016 is “Take Care to Give Care”. Caregiving can be physically and emotionally demanding. The stress associated with caregiving leads to a higher risk of health issues for the caregiver. If you are a family caregiver, remember to pay attention to your own physical and mental wellness, and get proper rest and nutrition. Only by taking care of yourself can you be strong enough to take care of your loved one. According to the Caregiver Action Network, caregivers should remember: “Rest. Recharge. Respite.” People think of respite as a luxury, but the chance to take a breather, the opportunity to re-energize, is necessary for you to be a good caregiver to your loved one.
Tips for Family Caregivers
- Seek support from other caregivers. Join a support group or consider an online web forum. You are not alone!
- Take care of yourself so that you can be strong enough to take care of your loved one. Exercise, eat right, and get enough rest.
- Accept offers of help and suggest specific things people can do to help you. It may be running a few errands or sitting with your loved one while you take a break. If people offer, graciously accept.
- Learn how to communicate effectively with doctors and organize medical information so it’s up to date and easy to find.
- Caregiving is hard work so take breaks often. Set aside some time for yourself each day, even if it’s just 15 or 20 minutes. Light candles and enjoy a hot bath, pick up a favorite book, or take a walk around the block. Get together with a friend for coffee or lunch. Feed your spirit—pray, read the Bible, or just spend 15 minutes quietly enjoying nature.
- Watch for signs of depression and get professional help when you need it.
- Find the positive. It helps to take time to recognize the blessings.
- Find a reason to laugh. The ability to find humor in a difficult situation is one of the greatest survival mechanisms we have.
- Give yourself credit for doing the best you can in one of the toughest jobs there is! Appreciate yourself, knowing that you are doing good work and for the right reasons.
- Give yourself permission to have a good cry if that’s what you need. It’s okay, it really is.
There are resources for caregivers in the Rochester area:
Elder Network: Caregiver support and respite care and a caregiver support group
Southeastern Minnesota Area Agency on Aging: Senior LinkAge Line