The life of a caregiver can be both difficult and rewarding. Whether you are caring for a child with a disability, an aging parent or a family member, we understand the high demands on your energy, resources and patience. At Canaan Home Care we have employed and partnered with hundreds of caregivers and we understand the daily choices you have to make as a caregiver. We have compiled a list of encouragement and reminders for you or the caregiver in your life.
8 Things Every Caregiver Should Know
1. Ask for help
If you have just made the decision to become the primary caregiver for your loved one, it is easy to become overwhelmed by the amount of information available. The best thing is to find someone who has experienced what you have experienced and ask for help. There are many caregiver support groups that will help lend a hand. For the more practical needs like home safety, Canaan Home Care can help. Our staff and caregivers can help you create a routine, answer your questions, or even come and give you a free in-home estimate to determine if your home is safe.
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2. Take a break
Whether you are a new caregiver or you have been caring for a loved one for a long time, at some point you will need a break. If your patience is wearing thin or you just need to “recharge your batteries,” there are ways to do so. You are not stuck. Here at Canaan Home Care we offer hourly and overnight care that will allow you to enjoy a short getaway or vacation. You can relax knowing that your loved one will be well taken care of by professional caregivers while you are away.
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3. Get organized
Getting organized is paramount. There are many times you will need to refer to the same medical information, doctors’ names, etc. You will also need quick access to medication information and medical histories in the case of an emergency. Getting organized can help relieve stress on you and your loved one by reducing the amount of chaos that happens during emergencies, doctor visits or annual tax and insurance filings.
4. Take care of yourself – Put on your own oxygen mask first
If you’ve ever flown in an airplane, you’ve no doubt heard the safety procedures the flight attendants go through before takeoff. If the the cabin loses air pressure, air masks will fall from the ceiling. In that event, you are told to secure your own oxygen mask first, before helping your child or someone else. To a caregiver, this notion may seem selfish at first – but the truth is, when you take care of yourself first, you are able to better assist others around you.
You are not a machine. You cannot run 24/7 and stay healthy. Many caregivers burn out, not because they can’t handle the stress, but because they do not take proper care of themselves. If you are a caregiver, you must seek hobbies and interests that keep you mentally and emotionally stimulated. If you don’t have a hobby, considering speaking with a counselor on a monthly basis or joining a caregiver support group.
In addition to a hobby to help keep you active, make sure you are caring for your own health. Many times caregivers will wait too long to eat, eat at odd hours, eat poorly, sleep at odd hours and do not exercise for fear of something happening if they leave. Caring for yourself will make you a better caregiver.
5. Give yourself and your loved one freedom to forget
Often times when caring for a loved one with dementia or Alzheimer’s, it’s hard to reconcile the person you knew with the person who is in front of you. Some people refer to it as losing a loved one right before their very eyes. As the caregiver of an Alzheimer’s or dementia patient, one helpful tip we have found is to allow yourself and your loved one the freedom to forget. If they forget they don’t like peanut butter, that’s ok – let them try it again and make up their mind. If they don’t remember a story, that’s ok – use it as an opportunity to share the story from your perspective.
Giving yourself and your loved one freedom to forget relieves the stress of having to control, rehearse and hold on to things that are changing very rapidly – and are outside your control.
6. Give yourself and your loved one freedom to change
Similar to allowing someone the freedom to forget, allowing someone the freedom to change is equally important. As we age, we all learn, grow and change. The people that surround us can help or hinder us from changing.
As a caregiver, you will have a front row seat to witness the changes in your loved one. Allowing them the freedom to change, make different choices or respond differently to situations, will benefit their mental state and your own. You can limit the negative reactions to decisions and difficult choices by allowing your loved one the freedom and rediscovery of their personal will.
7. Helping your loved one look good helps them feel good. Remember that for yourself as well.
This one is simple but powerful. When you look good, you feel good. When you are caring for a loved one, and wrapped up in the daily tasks of medication, meal times, housecleaning and doctor appointments, it’s easy to brush aside the “extraneous” details. However, a simple thing like brushing your hair or getting fully dressed can make a huge difference.
It’s good to feel good about yourself, and it can boost your energy level and self-confidence. Take a few minutes each day to put on some nice clothes, brush your hair, put on some makeup and do the same for your loved one. You will see a remarkable difference.
8. Patience is key
Try to think back to what you were like as a small child. You probably needed help tying your shoes and brushing your hair. You definitely needed help going to the bathroom and taking your medicine before bed.
Sometimes it is good to remember that at one point in your life, you too needed extra help and extra patience. Patience can make the difference between burnout and stress-free caregiving. Patience is an art, state of mind and a choice. If you choose patience, you are choosing honor, respect and grace. Anything else can lead to burnout, anger and frustration.