caregiver self-care tips

If you’re a caregiver, you have lots of company.  Nearly 49 million Americans provide care to older, chronically ill or disabled adults, according to the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP. 

Being a caregiver can be a full¬time job, and can take a toll on even the most resilient person. Studies indicate that caregivers may be at greater risk for depression and chronic illness than non-caregivers. Taking care of yourself is as just important as taking caring of your loved one and can help you better handle your caregiving responsibilities.

To avoid feeling overwhelmed, stressed or burned out, take these steps to preserve your own health and well-being.

1.  SHARE THE CARE.  The tasks a caregiver undertakes are wide¬ ranging--from grocery shopping and cooking to changing bandages, giving injections and calming an agitated person. Determine which responsibilities you can meet on your own, and which ones may require additional help. Ask family members, friends and neighbors for specific help. Jewish Family Service is available to provide Geriatric Care Management and ongoing case management.  We are fortunate to live in an area that is rich with services for elders, including adult care centers, home health aides, home-delivered meal services, and transportation services.  JFS has an excellent resource and information department.

2.  STAY INFORMED.  Learn about your loved one's diagnosis and treat¬ment to get a better idea of what to expect. Speak with a doctor, nurse practitioner or social worker who can recommend resources or organiza¬tions that offer support.

3.  BE HEALTHY.  Your own health is extremely valuable. Keep up with your own healthcare-team appoint¬ments, checkups and screenings. Remember to take your medications. And don't neglect your daily health: Stay physically active, eat a healthy diet and get enough sleep.  Give yourself the gift of a walk in the fresh air every day.

4.  JOIN A SUPPORT GROUP.  Share your feelings in a supportive environment. Discussing the chal¬lenges and rewards of caregiving can help you feel less alone. Face-to-face, telephone or online support groups can offer advice and tips, and help you to build bonds with others who are in similar situations.  JFS offers caregiver support groups.  Call us, we can help!

5.  STAY CONNECTED.  If you’re spending a lot of time with a spouse or relative who's in poor health (and possibly housebound), it's easy to become isolated, and perhaps depressed. If you experience any signs of depression, be sure to seek professional help.

6.  Don't feel guilty if you need to get away. Give yourself credit-it can be difficult to be a caregiver. Reward your efforts by taking some time each day to do something you enjoy. Your health will thank you for it.

*Excerpted from HealthMonitor

For more information please contact Cathy Chandler, MSW, LICSW, Clinical Social Worker at 413.455.1936 x104 or c.chandler@jfswm.org.