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Caring for the Caregiver

March 6, 2017

By Diane Kauffman, Marketing and Sales Manager

Betty could still do many things for herself, but her daughter Meg was concerned about her having a fall or becoming ill while living alone. And so, about six months ago, Betty moved in with Meg, her husband and two teenage children. At first, this worked out very well. Betty picked up the house every day, was there to greet the children when they came home from school, and started dinner so that it was just about ready when Meg returned from her full-time job.

Now, Betty has changed. She has had a few falls, and had to go to the emergency room due to the last fall. Betty is also becoming forgetful, and sometimes she is short tempered with the children. While Meg is at work, she worries about her mother falling or attempting to use the stove and starting a fire. She is concerned about how the change in her mother’s temperament is affecting her family. Meg must make many decisions about her mother’s care, find time to take care of her mother, spend time with her husband and care for her children and her home. She also struggles to meet the demands of her job. Meg is exhausted. Meg is stressed.

While today’s elders have better health, more wealth and higher levels of education than elders in the past, not all elders are so fortunate. Most suffer from the effects of aging – dementia, heart disease, cancer, chronic pain, Parkinson’s disease and other maladies. In many cases, daughters and sons find themselves performing the role of caregiver.

The life of a caregiver is stressful. It is important that caregivers remember to care for themselves. Here are some self-care tactics:

  • Take a vacation or a “stay-cation”. Take a trip or simply stay at home without the stress of caregiving. (Yes, it can be done!) Contact local personal care and assisted living communities for respite care stays varying from a few days to a month. Their services will allow you to enjoy quality time with your spouse and children, while you rest and relax knowing that your loved one is being cared for in a safe environment.
  • Meditate and exercise. Walking, aromatherapy, massage, or simply ensuring that you get enough sleep will go a long way toward relieving stress.
  • Ask for help. Other family members or friends can get involved by having them spend time with the person for whom you provide care.
  • Eat well. Be sure to include healthy whole grains and protein, as well as fruits and vegetables in your diet each day. Certain foods, like salmon, blueberries and almonds, are known to reduce stress.
  • Be organized. Remove clutter from your home and car, keep track of appointments and events on a calendar. Enlist your kids to help you with this – make it a family activity.
  • Share your feelings. Spend time talking with a close friend or family member. They may be able to offer suggestions to help make your responsibilities easier to bear. If you do not have someone in your life to talk to, consider a caregiver’s support group or other counseling service.

No matter the method a caregiver chooses to relieve stress, self-care is the first step to providing excellent care to your loved one. Take the time to set up a self-care program for yourself today!

Printed in the Daily Local News, March 6, 2017