When an elderly relative requires extra care and attention, it does not affect just the individual; it can also impact on the family caregivers / family members caring for them. As more and more people become family caregivers there are more resources available to support them. Here are some basic tips on how to support yourself.
1. Acknowledge and seek help if it is impacting on your physical and mental health.
Be aware that if you are not looking after yourself properly it can impact on the care you give. For example, if you experience back problems from lifting, this can cause irreparable damage to yourself and limit your ability to help your relative, so get it checked out. Learn how to mobilize safely. Caring for a family member can cause anxiety and stress and even depression. Being a caregiver can evoke a wide range of emotions and you may hate yourself for feeling some, like fear, anger or resentment. You feel them because you care about them. If you did not, then you would not feel anything. Remember that you are not superhuman. Do not feel guilty about having a life and enjoying yourself without your relative. They would probably be unhappy if they discovered this.
2. Accept help when offered or seek it out.
There are resources out there for family caregivers, for a reason. Attending groups or talking to others on a one to one basis can help you to ventilate. Use respite opportunities, such as Massachusetts Respite care. These can be arranged on a regular basis or ad hoc, for example in the event of illness or a vacation. Often, homecare services include family care packages. They do not just care for the individual, but support their family caregivers. Support can be found in numerous places, such as caregiver organizations, your church or place of worship, organizations linked to illnesses that your relative experiences and therapists.
3. Educate yourself about your relative’s difficulties.
Find out as much as you can about how they are affected and what they can do. Knowledge gives us more confidence in our abilities. Be realistic about how much help you can provide and when it is necessary to get support from professionals. It is tempting to provide as much care for our elderly relative as possible, especially when we feel they are struggling. At times, this can actually be detrimental, as it takes away some of their independence.
4. Maintain open communication with your relative’s physician and other professionals involved with their care.
5. Everyone is different.
Your relative’s needs are different to other peoples in terms of severity and ability to look after them. Similarly, what you offer them in terms of care is different to other carers. Do not compare your abilities to those of others and feel that you are doing a bad job. Do not beat yourself up if you cannot spend as much time with your relative as you feel others are with theirs. We never truly know all the circumstances in other people’s lives.
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