Being a caregiver is often an emotionally challenging job. But it’s important to know you’re not alone, and that there are networks to support you. For example, for those caring for loved ones with Alzheimers, Griffin Hospital hosts a regular Alzheimer’s Caregiver Support Group, to help develop new methods and solve problems. CLICK HERE for advice for making caregiving easier more rewarding.
Providing care for a family member or loved one in need is an act of kindness, love, and loyalty. And as medical treatments advance, life expectancies increase, and more people live with chronic illness and disabilities, many of us will be more likely become caregivers at some point in our lives.
Whether you’re a full-time caregiver, or just occasionally helping an aging parent or other family member, caregiving can be an emotionally challenging job. Here is some helpful information on managing the feelings and changes that may come along with caregiving.
- Accept your feelings. Caregiving can trigger a host of difficult emotions, including anger, fear, resentment, guilt, helplessness, and grief. It's important to acknowledge and accept what you're feeling, both good and bad. Don't beat yourself up over your doubts and misgivings.
- Take time to relax daily. Learn how to regulate yourself and de-stress when you start to feel overwhelmed. Pray, meditate, or do an activity that makes you feel part of something greater. Try to find meaning in both your life and in your role as a caregiver.
- Talk with someone. This can help you make sense of your situation and your feelings. There’s no better way of relieving stress than spending time face-to-face with someone who cares about you. Join a support group (either in-person or online), or reach out to national caregiver organizations for support.
- Keep a journal. Some people find it helpful to write down their thoughts and feelings to help them see things more clearly.
- Stay social. Make it a priority to visit regularly with other people. Nurture your close relationships. Don't let yourself become isolated. Don’t give up activities that are important to you, such as your work or your hobbies.
- Exercise regularly. Try to get in at least 30 minutes of exercise, three times per week. Exercise is a great way to relieve stress and boost your energy. So get moving, even if you’re tired.
- Eat right. Well-nourished bodies are better prepared to cope with stress and get through busy days. Keep your energy up and your mind clear by eating nutritious meals at regular times throughout the day.
- Avoid alcohol and drugs. It can be tempting to turn to substances for escape when life feels overwhelming, but they can easily compromise the quality of your caregiving. Having a clear mind is always the best way to deal with any issues you may have.
- Get enough sleep. Aim for an average of eight hours of solid, uninterrupted sleep every night. Otherwise, your energy level, productivity, and ability to handle stress will suffer.
- Make sure your loved one has an Advance Directive. Ensure your loved one’s health preferences are granted by creating an Advance Directive (also known as “living wills”). While you may talk to a family lawyer about this as part of your loved one’s estate planning, however a lawyer is not needed to make a valid Advance Directive. It can be developed by you and your loved one and signed by two witnesses.
Advance Care Planning physician services are covered by Medicare. Griffin Hospital also offers support to help guide your decision making around Advance Care Planning and Advance Directives. Call your physician to book an appointment, call us at 203-732-1255 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to make an appointment with a specially trained representative from Griffin Hospital who can guide you in your decision making and create a living will if desired. Together, you can discuss options, review your decisions, and formulate a plan.