Caregiving Basics and Beyond –
Caring for Caregivers
At any given time in our lives, many of us provide some type of care to loved ones. And, we can all relate to one trait that a lot of caregivers share: forgetting to take care of ourselves! Carving out time to take care of yourself and exercise can sound time-consuming, but in the long run it will make you a better and less stressed caregiver.
Caregivers Need to Care for Themselves
Whether you call yourself a caregiver or simply a good daughter or son, you know that caring for others has its rewards and its trials.
“Many people don’t identify as caregivers, but there are many ways you can care for family members, friends and neighbors,” said Dr. Robin McAtee, director of the UAMS Schmieding Home Caregiver Training Program
. “Caregivers provide physical and/or emotional care for anyone who is ill or disabled temporarily or permanently. This can include a kindness such as mowing the grass for a neighbor who just had surgery or full-time care for a loved one who has a chronic condition.”
If you are a caregiver, or expect to be one someday, here are some tips to help you cope.
Prepare for Care
Have an honest talk about future caregiving plans with your loved ones. It’s best to do this while they are still able to handle aspects of their daily lives. If you are an adult child caring for a parent and have siblings, ask the sibling who is most comfortable with the parent to talk to them about it. If you're caring for a spouse, start the conversation by sharing what you'd like for yourself (such as, 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 work out plans to meet an older loved one's caregiving needs. You can find one through the Aging Life Care Association
. Or, you can call local agencies for referrals. Check listings for "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 Administration on Aging to find help in your state.
Caregivers need to share duties with others. Set 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 ease stress. It also gives you a break from caregiving duties and keeps depression at bay.
Stress Relief: Relaxation
Focusing the mind helps provide stress relief
. Taking five to 10 minutes to practice relaxation each day helps you feel more refreshed. The following exercises can be done almost anywhere. Try one or more until you find what works best for you.
Calm Your Mind
Find a quiet place where you won't be disturbed. Then try the following:
- Sit comfortably. Take off your shoes. Turn off your cell phone and pager. Take a few deep breaths.
- Focus your mind on one peaceful thought, image or word. Then try to hold that thought for five minutes.
- When other thoughts enter your mind, relax and refocus. Let the invading thoughts fall away.
- When you're done, stand up slowly and stretch your arms over your head.
With practice, this exercise can help you feel restored.
Calm Your Body
With practice, you can use mental cues to tell your body how to feel.
- Sit comfortably and clear your mind. A few deep breaths will help.
- Mentally focus on your left hand and repeat to yourself, "My left hand feels warm and heavy." Keep doing this until your hand does feel heavier and warmer.
- Repeat the exercise using your right hand. Then focus on your arms, legs and feet until your whole body feels relaxed.
- When you're done, stand up slowly and stretch your arms overhead.
is like taking a mental vacation. It frees your mind while keeping your body in a calm state. To get started, picture yourself feeling warm and relaxed. Choose a peaceful setting that appeals to you and fill in the details. If you imagine a tropical beach, listen to the waves on the shore. Feel the sun on your face. Dig your toes in the sand. By using the power of your mind, you can take a soothing break when you need to.
Join Us on November 12: Irreplaceable Family Caregiver Community Event
The Irreplaceable Family Caregiver Community Event
, bringing education and support for family caregivers, will be held Nov. 12 in Little Rock by Today’s Caregiver magazine and The Schmieding Home Caregiver Training Program of UAMS.
The event will be 8:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. at the Reynolds Institute on Aging. Parking for the event will be at Deck 3 on the corner of Capitol and Cedar streets.
Doors open at 8:30 a.m. with registration and vendor booths. At 9 a.m., attendees can join the “Be a Fearless Caregiver” panel discussion with author and blogger, Gary Barg of Today’s Caregiver magazine. Panel members also include:
- Denise Compton, Ph.D., a geriatric neuropsychologist
- Mary Nelson, an elder law attorney
- Debbie Brady, a licensed social worker
- Nancy Foster, outreach manager for CapTel Captioning Phonesfrom
Following the panel discussion there will be an educational breakout session on the topics of self-care and the care of the caregiver.
Take care of YOU this month!