The National Family Caregivers Alliance (www.caregiver.org) estimates that 29% of the adult population is the United States is caring for another adult. A caregiver is an unpaid individual (a spouse, partner, family member, friend, or neighbor) involved in assisting others with activities of daily living and/or medical tasks. While this doesn’t make care-giving easier, websites like the one mentioned here have many resources in many languages to guide caregivers through this often difficult process.
The following are some great resources and ideas to help caregivers maintain their own personal wellness.
PART I: Take care of your own health.
1. Identify personal barriers: Many times, attitudes and beliefs form personal barriers that stand in the way of caring for yourself. Not taking care of yourself may be a lifelong pattern, with taking care of others an easier option. However, as a family caregiver you must ask yourself, “What good will I be to the person I care for if I become ill? If I die?” Breaking old patterns and overcoming obstacles is not an easy proposition, but it can be done—regardless of your age or situation. The first task in removing personal barriers to self-care is to identify what is in your way.
2. Set goals: Setting goals or deciding what you would like to accomplish in the next three to six months is an important tool for taking care of yourself. Examples may be to take a break from caregiving, get help with caregiving tasks like bathing and preparing meals, engage in activities that will make you feel more healthy.
3. Exercise: Much of your day is focused on the needs of your loved one; taking time to exercise can become a beneficial outlet for you. This personal time to get moving, whether it’s a casual walk or a gym class, can give you energy for the rest of the day. Your mind and body will thank you as you set aside this time each day.
4. Diet: A healthy diet can give you the fuel needed to keep your immune system and energy up. When you prepare meals for your loved one, try making healthy meals for yourself at the same time. Eating healthy, combined with proper hydration, is another tip that can benefit both your mind and body. Recognize that the health of both you and the loved one you care for should be a priority.
5. Sleep: Everything is harder when you’re tired—especially caring for another person. If you struggle to get a good night’s sleep, try creating a bedtime routine with a goal of going to bed at the same time each day. Not only will your body feel better, but you’ll also feel more capable and productive throughout the day.
6. Manage stress: Meditation and/or taking time to care for your mental health (such as reading, doing yoga, journaling, walking outside, etc.), can become tools that improve your health and happiness, says AARP. Add a peaceful activity to your morning or night routine that you can look forward to. While this requires taking a bit more personal time, it’s a great way to take a step back and appreciate the day.
7. Mental Health: Depression and anxiety can severely impact your personal well-being and caregiving capabilities. If you’re worried you’re struggling with either of these, then it might be time to talk to a counselor. It may be a matter of changing your lifestyle, such as sleeping more, or needing to join a support group or set boundaries. Reach out to someone if you experience feelings of severe stress, hopelessness or self-loathing.
8. Personal Care” Between scheduling doctor visits, monitoring medication, cooking and helping with physical therapy, caregiving requires a lot of assistance on your part. Remember to treat your own health with the same level of concern, including scheduling regular dental appointments, haircuts and annual check-ups. Maintaining these will help you have peace of mind for your own health and wellness.
9. Pamper: Everybody needs a break sometimes. Pick a time once a week or so to treat yourself. What does this look like? It could be taking the afternoon off, going out to your favorite restaurant or getting a massage. These well-deserved pick-me-ups can help you relax and rejuvenate.
10. Finances: Financial stress from taking time away from work to care for a loved one, or the cost of medical expenses is a source of stress for many caregivers. Seek help in reviewing your finances to see if you qualify for tax credits or assistance with medical care for your relative.
Part II: Accept offers of help.
Often caregivers carry around guilt, making the stress of care-giving more intense. In fact, many caregivers don’t accept help because they feel it is their duty to care for their loved ones. The website www.eldercare.gov is intended to connect local adults and their caregivers with local resources if you need additional help.
Learn to communicate with healthcare professionals. In the long run, this skill will make your life easier.
Organize. Organized medical documents, prescription lists, legal documents, and in this day and age, user names and passwords, can make the journey of care- giving easier. The following is a short list of some primary documents you may want to collect and have in your caregiver “binder” (these items may be collected by the individual receiving care if she or he is able, or by the caregiver):
• birth certificate
• Social Security records
• health and life insurance records, including account numbers
• names and phone numbers of the primary care doctor, as well as significant specialists the individual has seen
• documentation of your recent medical history
• advance directives (If one is not available, one can be started with the cared for individual’s family doctor, attorney or long-term care facility)
• name of clergy or layperson
• funeral pre-arrangements, if any are made
• Medicare documentation
• trust documents
• will documents
• military records
• divorce records
• assets and sources of income
• Bank accounts/safe-deposit box
• mortgage papers
• investment records
• negotiable securities
• credit cards
• recent income tax return
• loans, payments and balances
• user names and passwords
For more information, you can try some of these websites:
www.thefamilycaregiver.org – non-profit dedicated to caregivers.
http://assistedlivingtoday.com/ – topics associated with assisted living with great resources for caregivers
www.caregiversresource.net – a site with resources for caregivers including Caregiver Radio!
Tatiana is an experienced National Board Certified Health Coach with additional certifications in Family Wellness. To find out more about how a coach can help your family and loved ones in the role of caregiver, send a message at this link: https://www.tatianakaletsch.com/contact-us/.