Anyone who provides long term assistance to a loved one is considered a caregiver. It could be an ill spouse, child or an aging relative or a friend. For many this role of caregiver happens gradually and many do not even identify themselves as caregivers. Are you are assisting someone on a regular basis with their daily aspects of living such as bathing, dressing, managing medications, assistance with doctors appointments, household chores, meals, etc.? Then yes - you are a caregiver. Perhaps you started caring for someone by just checking in on them occasionally, then you realized they needed assistance with meals, and maybe a subsequent illness or a fall meant an increased need for care. Caregiving can be a very rewarding experience and give you much needed peace of mind knowing that your loved one is receiving the greatest of care. But with that said caregiving is not always easy.
Regardless of the exact circumstances, stress is a common issue among most caregivers. It is very important to learn how to care for yourself in order to limit the emotional and physical strain that is often associated with caregiving. Ignoring your own needs can make you vulnerable to changes in your own health and if you don't take the time to pay attention to your own special needs, you won't be able to care for your loved one.
So what can be done to relieve some of the pressures of caregiving?
- First and foremost, be kind to yourself! Don't allow yourself to believe that you can do everything yourself or that you should have all the answers. For many this role comes with little or no education or skills and can be overwhelming so be kind to yourself and know that you are doing the best that you can with the skills and knowledge you have at the time.
- Education can be an important factor in relieving caregiver stress. Trying to change a bed with someone in it can be stressful and akward if you don't know the proper steps. mmLearn.org offers a video that can help with that, as well as many other videos that deal with caring for the elderly. The broad range of videos cover Alzheimer's, wheelchair transfers, medications, to changing the bed with someone in it, falls, and much more. They are sure to have a video to help you with whatever eldercare issue you are dealing with.
- Take advantage of the services in your area through Eldercare Locator, a public service of the Administration on Aging.
- Consider writing a list of what you would like help with and don't be afaid to share it with others. Often people are willing to help and will gladly step up if they are given a specific task or duty. When someone offers to help - show them your list of the things you could use help with and let them choose how they would like to help.
- Make a conscious effort to stay connected with family and friends.Take time to socialize, even if it's just an intimate phone chat. Get out of the house as often as you can. Having a strong support system is a very important aspect of dealing with the stress associated with caregiving.
And remember, no one is perfect. You're doing the best that you can for your loved one. Although guilt is a natural emotion, try not to let it drag you down when something goes wrong. Do yourself a favor and go to mmLearn.org. - browse throught the video topics - we are sure you will find something helpful. mmLearn.org was created specifically to provide FREE on-line training and support for caregivers caring for older adults. With over 300 videos in English and Spanish, geriatricians, nurses, social workers, clergy and others who are experts in the field of aging offer the latest, most informative and interactive videos using state of the art technology.