Caregivers Need to Care for Themselves
According to the Administration on Aging (AoA), millions of Americans are
involved in some form of helping elderly family members or friends with
their daily routines. Numbers of caregivers range from 33 million to over
50 million. Exact numbers are not known because caregivers often do not
identify themselves with this role. In addition, there is no standard
definition of "caregiver," so research studies use a variety
of descriptions that influence the estimates.
No matter the numbers, if you're part of this group, whether you call
yourself a caregiver, or simply a good daughter or son, you know that
caring for an aging parent or friend has its rewards and its trials. If
you are a caregiver, or expect to be one someday, the following are tips
to help you cope.
Prepare for Care
While your loved ones are still able to manage aspects of their daily lives,
have a frank conversation with them about caregiving plans. If you are
an adult child caring for a parent and have other siblings, ask the sibling
who is most comfortable with the parent to discuss the subject with him
or her. If you're caring for a spouse, initiate the topic by talking
about the type of care you'd prefer for yourself (for example, an
assisted living apartment). Don't assume that the method of care you
want is also what your loved one wants.
Find a Geriatric Care Manager
Care managers help families devise strategies to meet an older loved one's
caregiving needs. You can find one through the National Association of
Professional Geriatric Care Managers. The organization's website is at
www.caremanager.org. Locally, you can call area agencies for referrals. Look in the phone
book under "older adults" or "senior citizens." Be
very careful to check references and credentials before hiring anyone
to care for your family member. Use the National Center on Caregiving's
Family Care Locator or the AoA to find resources in your state.
Caregivers need to delegate specific responsibilities to others. Establish
a schedule and say, for example, "On Sunday, you can take Mom to
church; on Monday, you can drive her to the store," and so forth.
Try to Keep a Balance in Your Life
A burned-out caregiver isn't much help to anyone. Try to get enough
sleep; exhaustion is a common complaint among caregivers. Get regular
exercise. Exercise helps relieve stress, gives you a break from caregiving
responsibilities, and keeps depression at bay.