Ten Tips to Caring for Yourself While Caring for a Loved One
By Pamela D. Wilson, CSA, MS, BS/BA, CG
What would you do if your loved one became ill, was no longer able to provide care for him or herself and you felt you were the only one who could care for them? Helping a loved one who needs twenty-four hour care at home verses the idea (and even the benefit) of moving the individual to a care community may be one of the most emotional decisions of your life. What many caregivers fail to consider is that if you do not care for yourself you’ll fail in your attempts to provide care for your loved one. Below are 10 tips to help you navigate the caregiving role.
- Seek knowledge – It is important to find out as much as you can about your loved one’s diagnosis. Consult medical professionals. Ask questions and make sure you understand the long term consequences. With this information plan for long term care needs. Talk about the types of stressors you and your loved one will face, about how care needs may change in the future and what type of actions may be necessary.
- Understand the financials of the situation – The current circumstances will determine the financial needs of the situation today. It is also important to consider the long term. Seek advice from professionals in designing a financial plan, in understanding health care benefits and arriving at realistic costs of care.
- Talk with an attorney – When you are unable to manage the estate of your loved one or there are conflicts within the family seek legal advice on how work with the facts (not the emotions) of the situation.
- Build your caregiving team – Do not allow yourself to fall into the trap of being the only support system for your loved one. Doing so is detrimental to the situation. While you are learning the process of caring for your loved one, involve and teach others you can trust, such as family, friends, professional caregivers. If you are presently managing the situation, guaranteed there will be a time when you will need the support of others.
- Accept support – Say yes to others who offer to help. Ask family members to help. Attend support groups in person or online and discover ways so that you do not have to do it all on your own.
- Make time for yourself – We are all good at giving of our time to others yet many of us fail to take time for ourselves. Our lists just keep getting longer and longer. It is important to have our own space in life. It is important to set personal boundaries. This skill will benefit you when your loved one is no longer with you and you have a space in your life to fill.
- Acknowledge victories – You, your loved one, family, friends and medical professionals will be going through many challenges. Acknowledge that “you made it” even with small accomplishments.
- Enjoy moments together – Being the care provider is work. Spend time with your loved one not in work but in enjoyment. Make time to remember experiences before illness, before caregiving. Reflect on the positive not on the regrets. Use the positive memories of yesterday to create memories from today that you can look back on in the future.
- Share your experiences with others – There are many caregivers at the beginning of their journey who would benefit from hearing about your experiences. Seek support groups for yourself as well as providing support to those just beginning the caregiving journey.
- Take time to reflect and mourn – One day you will find you no longer have the role of caregiver for your loved one. Take the time to reflect on the experience and allow yourself to grieve.
There’s a great likelihood that each one of us will experience providing care or receiving care in our lifetime. It’s important to take care of yourself first so you can provide care and strength to the one you love. If you find you are unable to navigate your current caregiving or care receiving and wish guidance on how to navigate these waters in a way which benefits you and your loved one join the forum on The Caring Generation, explore our free library or items in our store.
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