Caregiver Care

By: Tiffany Cloud-Mann, M.Ed.

Some of us are naturals at putting others before ourselves. Then there are those of us that must be reminded that this life isn’t all about us. I also think there are those of us in the middle, who believe we must take care of ourselves to be there for others and we care a whole lot. Caregiving can stretch you thin, affect your overall health, isolate and drain you financially. It’s easy to feel like you can handle it all, especially if that’s your natural stance on responsibility and control. Maybe you know that being resourceful and detailed is something you struggle with, therefore finding help is difficult. Or possibly, like many, you have made promises to your loved one and yourself, therefore getting help with care is out of the question. I have said it in other blogs, communication is key in caregiving. Communicating your needs to yourself on paper, to others involved in your loved one’s care and connecting with resources is crucial to starting off on a strong foot in your caregiving journey. There is hope and there can be quality of life for everyone journeying through Alzheimer’s or any other disease, although it’s best not done alone.

Recognizing You’re Stressed and Doing Something About It

I really enjoyed my days working for the Alzheimer’s Association. It was a gift to be able to provide those in need with resources, support, and education. One brochure I handed out a lot was ‘Caregiver Stress: 10 ways to identify caregiver stress and 10 ways to be a healthy caregiver’. Here is a list of words out of that brochure that represent stress is present: denial, anger, social withdrawal, anxiety, depression, exhaustion, sleeplessness, irritability, lack of concentration and health problems. These are the symptoms of caregiver stress. They might be hard to name, but you should know they are normal, the effects are real and many, if not all, caregivers are experiencing them.

So, as I mentioned, there can be quality of life both for the caregiver and the care receiver, whether you are dealing with Alzheimer’s or another progressive disease. But, hear me when I say this, you must reach out for information early, communicate with anyone you can call your support team and take care of YOU, first. Summarized below are ways to be a healthy caregiver from the Alzheimer’s Association and I think these apply no matter the disease.

Learn what resources and education is available. There are so many helpful resources, both free and fee-based. Intense hands-on help or help that you customize. Even if you think you will never ever need one of these resources, please just know about them. Having a Plan B is crucial, because you never know what’s coming next. Regarding education, the more you know about what your loved one is experiencing they better prepared you can be for the future and compassionate towards their symptoms. Something that you must learn about early is how to keep your loved one safe, both physically and financially. Early on, you must get legal and financial issues in order. This protects your loved one and you, as well as gives them a voice in planning their future care.

Seek out support. If you have family and friends supporting you, talk to them about what’s going on. Check-in with them regularly to let them know how things are going. If we don’t tell those that care about us, what is going on, they can’t help. If you have a hard time asking for help, make a list of things you need help with,  put each on a post-it note, fold them up and put them in a bowl. When someone asks how they can help, have them draw out a slip. They get to help, and you didn’t have to ask. Remember, allowing someone to do something for you is a blessing for them, don’t take that away. If your support circle is small or nonexistent, you aren’t alone. No matter your circle, reach out to a support group. Feeling like you aren’t the only one on this journey can be so therapeutic. You can also glean resources from those going through it too, they often know about more than the professionals.

Take of you first. This is not selfish and can’t be said enough. What fills you up inside? What makes you feel your best? Is it working out, time with friends, going to church? Exercise, sleep, water, good nutrition and fun are all things that are going to help keep you well and charged for your loved one. It’s easy to let a bad week or month cause us to forget or push to the side the things that keep you well, so if you have forgotten, start today. Make a list of the things that keep you well and fill you up and then plan to incorporate them back into your normal routine. This is where resources, family and friends will come in. Talk to them and accept their help. It’s likely one day you can pay them back with helping them.

Start with Us Today

Care Management isn’t just for the care receiver, much of what we do is taking over some or all of the load for the caregiver. We have professional training in social work, nursing and other disciplines that allow us to take on hard cases and use our team knowledge to provide awesome care. Reach out today, even if it’s just to share your story and find out how we can help. At LifeLinks our initial consultation is FREE, what can it hurt?

For resources, support and education, visit the Alzheimer’s Association at alz.org.

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