This title is the theme for National Family Caregivers Month 2013. Family caregivers are providing assistance not just to the elderly who may have dementia or are becoming frail physically, but also to children with special needs and disabled veterans. Sometimes, amidst the busyness of providing care, holding a job, normal household chores, and giving attention to other family members, caregivers delay taking care of themselves, both physically and mentally. The result can be an ill or burned out caregiver, which will only add barriers to successful care of the needy family member, as well as create a need for care for the second individual. Following are some general tips to help caregivers ease the stress of this difficult job.
- Remember that you are not alone, and seek support from other caregivers.There are a number of websites and blogs devoted to caregiving, such as the Caregiver Action Network (www.caregiveraction.org) and the Family Caregiver Alliance (www.caregiver.org) , or organizations that offer local support groups, such as the Alzheimer’s Association (www.alz.org).
- If someone offers to help you, say YES! Also don’t be afraid to ASK for help. Others may not realize your needs unless you request assistance with a specific task.
- Organize medical and insurance information and keep it current and easy to find. Do you need help understanding medical insurance? The folks at Benefit Connections in Carlisle (www.creativehealthinsurance.com) can answer questions about both private health insurance and Medicare.
- Research available services in your area and find out helpful information that you may not realize you should know about! A good source of information for services is The National Care Planning Council at www.longtermcarelink.net. If you want to improve your skills and knowledge for providing physical care, try www.learningcenter.pahomecare.org.
- Find new technologies that may help you better care for your loved one.Dr. Leslie Kernisan, a physician who specializes in geriatrics in San Francisco, has reviewed some apps in her blog at www.drkernisan.net.
- Watch out for your OWN health so that you can be in the best shape possible to provide the care for your family member (including proper diet, enough sleep, regular exercise, and routine medical care).
- Does your loved one have current legal documents such as powers of attorney? Keystone Elder Law (www.keystoneelderlaw.com) can help you be sure your loved ones’ wishes are protected, and provide important information about planning ahead for long term care needs.
- Take advantage of respite care options so that you can have time to relax and recharge. Local home health care agencies, personal care homes, and nursing facilities offer respite services ranging from a couple of hours to a week or longer depending on your needs.
- Be aware of personal attitudes and beliefs which may affect your situation, such as providing care with the hope of healing a strained relationship or because you “promised” never to put Mom in a nursing home.
- Give yourself credit for your accomplishments in a very difficult job!
The references provided above are only a few of the many resources that are available to assist caregivers. At Keystone Elder Law, we like to refer to caregiving as “a team sport”. When working together with a variety of supportive services, families can have the peace of mind that their loved one is receiving the best care that can be given to meet their individual needs and goals.