While you may be happy and willing to take on the responsibility for someone else, you also need to pay attention to your own needs and take care of them. After all, if you become ill or collapse from exhaustion, you cannot help someone else.
Caring for the Caregiver
Pay attention to yourself. Make sure you are getting enough sleep, that you are eating enough and that you are not feeling exhausted or run-down.
Think HALT. This means do not let yourself become too hungry, angry, lonely or tired. If you do, you are likely to become depressed, irritable or angry. You could lash out at other members of your family, including the loved one who is in your care. In extreme cases, this has even led to elder abuse. You do not want this to happen to you.
Reach out to others for help. Find out what resources are available to you. Are there relatives who can give you a break once in a while? Even getting a day off once a week, or a weekend off once a month can make a huge difference. Does your city offer free or low-cost adult day care programs? Does a nearby nursing home offer respite care or temporary care for the elderly or disabled? These services can fill in the gaps when you do not have other family members who are able to help.
If there are problems, discuss them with your loved one's doctor. When my mother, who has dementia, became angry, paranoid and difficult to deal with, my father, sister and brother-in-law discussed her behavior with her physician. He prescribed an anti-depressant and almost immediately my mother's behavior improved. Do not keep new symptoms to yourself. Doctors may be able to help more than you think.
Do not isolate yourself. Keep up your friendships. Get out of the house and spend time with others as often as you can.
If your faith is important to you, maintain your religious affiliations. Participate as often as possible. Pray. You will benefit from the spiritual support and, sometimes, other members of your church can be helpful.
Treat yourself once in awhile to something you enjoy, whether it is a long bath, a funny movie, or a stroll around the neighborhood. Keep up a few relaxing hobbies, such as reading your favorite books, needlework, or painting. If possible, take an occasional short trip.
Let go of any feelings of guilt. You are not responsible for the health problems of your loved ones. You deserve a good life, too. Enjoy it to the best of your ability.
Resources for Caregivers:
If you are looking for additional help, contact these organizations:
Eldercare Locator at 1-800-677-1116 or at www.eldercare.gov
Family Caregiver Alliance at www.caregiver.org
You may also be interested in reading:
Senior Living in a Med Cottage or Granny Pod
Alzheimers Symptoms, Risk Factors and Treatment Options
Avoid Grapefruit When Taking Medications
Helping Caregivers Survive the Holidays
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