Do you take time out of your day to care for an aging parent or a child with special needs? Do you care for a disabled family member or veteran? If you answered yes, then you are a caregiver. According to Caregiver Action Network, two out of five adults in America are family caregivers. That means 40% (almost half) of all Americans are taking care of an ailing loved one.
Because November is Family Caregiver Awareness Month, we want to share a few tips for our neighborhood caregivers.
1. Accept help
No one can do your job alone. When others offer to help you, let them. Be prepared with tasks that you feel comfortable allowing others do and let them choose how they would like to assist. Creating a sign-up sheet of duties may be a helpful way to organize.
2. Educate yourself
Learn about your loved one’s illness and medications so that you can communicate effectively with doctors. The more you know, the less stress you will feel and the more effective you will be as a caregiver.
3. Trust your instincts
You know your family member very well. So listen to the doctor, but listen to yourself too. For example, you may notice that a medication is causing unwanted side-effects. Make sure the doctor knows your concerns.
4. Stay connected
There are many support groups out there to remind you that you are not alone. Here are a few in our area: Caregiver Online Group, Caregiver Support Group, Strength for Caregivers, Caregiver Action Network
5. Encourage Independence
Encourage your loved one to continue with their normal activities and be open to technologies that can help them be more independent. This will help your loved one keep their self-esteem, while taking some of the responsibility off of you.
6. Know your limits
Know how much of your time and talents you can give, and communicate your limits to your family and doctors. Do not feel guilty because you can’t do everything.
7. Watch for signs of depression
Get help for yourself when you need it. If you are feeling sad or overwhelmed, or you simply need someone to talk to, call 1-800-273-TALK or the caregiver support hotline 1-855-260-3274
8. Take care of yourself
Often caregivers get so involved with their loved one that they forget to take care of themselves. Stick to a routine allotting yourself personal time, adequate sleep and a healthy diet. Keeping yourself healthy and strong will help your family stay strong too.
9. Keep your head up
A positive attitude will help you and your family to keep hope even when days are gray.
10. Give yourself credit
Being a caregiver is hard! Remember that you are doing the best you can.
Your role as the family’s caregiver is crucial because it dramatically cuts the medical costs for your family, while giving your loved one the care he or she needs. Being a caregiver can be a very demanding and exhausting job. Remember, you are not alone.
Caregiver Services is a program designed by LSS/NCA that focuses on the well-being of the caregiver. The program equips the caregiver with invaluable resource information and the emotional and spiritual support they desperately need. To learn more about Caregiver Services contact: Kati Miler-Holland, Director of Church and Community Ministries, (202) 723-3000, ext. 200 or HollandK@lssnca.org.