Caregiving – It’s one of the hardest, physically and emotionally draining roles anyone can undertake. In a 2015 survey from AARP and the National Alliance of Caregiving it was found that a third of all Americans are caregivers, providing care to someone who is disabled, ill or elderly. The same study found that almost 80% of these caregivers stated they needed help. Caregivers can be family members or friends. Many caregivers have jobs, families, and the additional responsibility of the minute to minute needs of the person to whom they are providing care 24/7. It is not just driving to doctor visits or making meals. Many caregivers are providing nursing care (maintaining Stomas, catheters, or feeding tubes), often without the training or previous experience to do so. Caregivers learn quickly as the lives and well-being of someone they love relies on them. Perhaps the person being cared for is not a good patient, or does not remember you, or has tremendous guilt in being ill or helpless. These are all potential circumstances that many caregivers have to face every day. It’s one of the experiences in life that unless you have done it – you won’t quite understand the demands or the challenges.
Tips for Caregiver:
The first rule of taking care of others: take care of yourself first. Caregiving can be a rewarding experience, but it is also physically and emotionally demanding. The stress of dealing with caregiving responsibilities leads to a higher risk of health issues among the nation’s 90 million family caregivers. So as a family caregiver, remember to pay attention to your own physical and mental wellness, and get proper rest and nutrition. Only by taking care of yourself can you be strong enough to take care of your loved one. You really do need to “take care to give care!”
- Caregiving can be a stressful job. Most family caregivers say they feel stressed providing care for a loved one. With all of their caregiving responsibilities – from managing medications to arranging doctor appointments to planning meals – caregivers too often put themselves last.
- The stress of caregiving impacts your own health. One out of five caregivers admit they have sacrificed their own physical health while caring for a loved one. Due to stress, caregivers have a disproportionate number of health and emotional problems. They are twice as likely to suffer depression and are at increased risk for many other chronic conditions.
- Proper nutrition helps promote good health. Ensuring that you are getting proper nutrition is key to help maintain your strength, energy and stamina, as well as strengthening your immune system. Maintaining a healthy diet is one of the most powerful things you can do to take care of yourself and keep a positive attitude overall.
- Ensuring good nutrition for your loved one helps make care easier. As many as half of all older adults are at risk for malnutrition. Good nutrition can help maintain muscle health, support recovery, and reduce risk for re-hospitalization – which may help make your care of a loved one easier.
- Remember: “Rest. Recharge. Respite.” People think of respite as a luxury, but considering caregivers’ higher risk for health issues from chronic stress, those risks can be a lot costlier than some time away to recharge. The chance to take a breather, the opportunity to re-energize, is vital in order for you to be as good a caregiver tomorrow as you were today.
What is Respite?
According to the Lifespan Respite Care Act (PL 109-442), Lifespan Respite is defined as ‘coordinated systems of community-based respite for family caregivers of children or adults regardless of special need.’ For more information, on Respite please visit: https://archrespite.org/index.php
Tips for Others:
As a caregiver your world at times feels like it’s in chaos and out of your control. Interacting with other people can often be tiresome and difficult as you simply feel too overwhelmed to participate in social settings. Other people often want to help and support you, but struggle with what they can say and do to help. We have compiled some great suggestions for what to say or not to say to caregivers. Please feel free to send suggestions we have not mentioned in this blog. Interesting enough, there is some overlap on the advice on what best to say or not to say to caregivers. Bottom line: speak from the heart and be supportive of their needs.
12 Things You Should Say to a Family Caregiver By Becky Benishek
Keep in mind many caregivers won’t ask for help, so the best way to help someone is to do things for them that they may not have the time, money, or mental energy to do for themselves. Social settings and activities may at times be too draining, or the fear of being a “bummer” or not in “the best mood” can often cause many caregivers to go into recluse mode.
There is assistance and resources to help caregivers. Many times a caregiver is so consumed in the day to day tasks of caregiving they don’t have the bandwidth to research tools or support. One such resource is geared to caregivers of Veterans. Per the Veteran Benefits: Caregiver Programs and Services on Military.com website:
On May 5, 2010, the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act of 2010 was signed into law. Title I of the Act will allow VA to provide unprecedented benefits to eligible Caregivers (a parent, spouse, child, step-family member, extended family member, or an individual who lives with the Veteran, but is not a family member) who support the Veterans who have given so much for this Nation. The law distinguishes between Veterans who incurred or aggravated a serious injury in the line of duty on or after Sept. 11, 2001 (post-9/11 Veterans), and those Veterans whose injuries were incurred prior to Sept. 11, 2001 (pre-9/11 Veterans).
Please visit the VA’s caregiver page for more information, and to apply for these services.