Although family caregivers are good at taking care of others, they are not always good at taking care of themselves. As the demands for caregiving increase, their own needs often get pushed aside. Caregivers can quickly become exhausted, overwhelmed and burnt out. Some signs that caregivers need some caregiving themselves are exhaustion, irritability, insomnia, hostility, tearfulness and resentment. Before this happens, it is important that caregivers take time to relax and rejuvenate. As the person receiving care, you can give back to your caregiver by encouraging him or her to take some time to replenish energy or arrange for others to pitch in and help. Below are some suggestions:
1. Acknowledge your caregiver’s hard work with verbal appreciation. They may respond initially by saying, “It’s nothing really” or “No problem.” For many people, it is difficult to accept compliments. However, if the person giving the compliment keeps hearing disclaimers, he or she may stop expressing appreciation. A simple recognition of one’s time and effort is enough to make a caregiver feel appreciated. You could say to them, “I want to acknowledge you. Thank you for doing all that you do for me.”
2. Encourage your caregiver to attend a support group. Although friends and family can be supportive, opening up and sharing feelings with strangers can often be easier, especially strangers who can relate to the situation. Both in-person and on-line support options are listed on the FCNS website at www.familycaregiversnetwork.org or in the Network News newsletter.
3. Share the care by co-ordinating with family and friends to take some duties off the caregiver’s hands. If everyone takes one task, the impact can be huge. Arrange for someone to relieve your caregiver for extended periods. Set this up on a regular basis. It will give the caregiver something to look forward to.
4. Arrange for help with errands and chores. Often the regular household chores and daily errands get pushed aside by the more essential requirements of caregiving. Arrange for others to help with these or, if possible, pay someone to do the housekeeping, gardening or shopping.
5. Prioritize. Help your caregiver determine which tasks are unnecessary or less important. Family caregivers often want to do it all and may need “permission” to let go of tasks without feeling they are failing you.
6. Give the gift of relaxation. Treat your caregiver to a manicure, massage or other relaxing pleasure with a gift certificate. If finances are a concern, ask family members and friends to chip in.
7. Finally, have some fun and laugh together. Spend some time together that does not revolve around caregiving. If able, attend a play together or arrange for dinner to be delivered, stay home and watch a movie.
Taking time to show your appreciation to your caregiver can help him or her stay strong, healthy, and better able to care for you for as long as is needed.
Next month: Help at Home: Resources to Assist Family Caregivers
AUGUST 2009 SENIOR LIVING VANCOUVER ISLAND
AUGUST 2009 SENIOR LIVING VANCOUVER
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