1. Seek Support
Being a caregiver can sometimes leave you questioning your decisions and feeling isolated. It’s important to remember that you are not alone! Many people are providing care for a loved on and there are groups to help you along the way. There are many ways to reach out to other caregivers, from online forums to weekly get-togethers.
Check out this link for some information: https://www.ontario.ca/locations/health/locationDetails.php?location=171175&lang=en
2. Take Care of Your Health
Caregivers need to pay attention to physical and emotional symptoms that can affect our own health and well-being. We need to guard against caregiver burnout and avoid becoming overly tired and exhausted, which can reduce our own body’s ability to ward off illness. Try to create balance between caring for others and caring for you.
Here are a few ideas:
- Take a daily vitamin supplement
- Get exercise — make it a priority for both your mental and physical well-being
- Get regular check-ups and do not ignore possible symptoms of ill health
- Take a break from caregiving – respite time is crucial
- Get a flu shot
- Watch for signs of depression
- Laugh with a friend
3. Ask for and Accept Help
Many caregivers have a hard time admitting they need help. They sometimes feel guilty even thinking they can't juggle everything themselves, or they believe no one else can do their job as well as they can. They forget that caregiving, like all jobs, is made up of many individual tasks, not all of which are of the same importance, or require the same skills. There is always someone to lend a hand, a good friend, or another family member might just want to help but all you have to do is ask.
4. Communicate with Doctors Effectively
Poor communication with doctors can cause mishaps or errors in treatment. Such as problems with medication could lead to serious consequences. As a caregiver you are a key member of the healthcare team for your loved one so it’s important to learn to communicate effectively with doctors. Collecting and keeping all cards and information for all members of the healthcare team is the first step in getting yourself organized. Making a list of things to talk about before an appointment, being an active participant during appointments, asking questions and clarifying answers all help to make you an effective communicator. For some extra tips on how to communicate with doctors check out this video: https://caregiveraction.org/resources/how-talk-your-doctor
5. Take Breaks
If you can't remember the last time you met a friend for coffee or went to a movie, you're not alone. While caregivers rarely take the time they need for themselves, everyone needs a break and it may be time you took one too. It’s important to set aside any guilt you may be feeling — time for yourself is necessary. Maybe plan a night away at a bed and breakfast, spend a night out on the town or even meet a friend for coffee, a chat or a stroll in the park. Perhaps it's as simple as taking a few hours to read a book or watch a favourite show. Time to yourself can be like hitting the reset button, allowing you to feel renewed. But remember this is “you time” so errands and doing dishes don't count as “you time”.
6. Use Technology to Help You
There are so many things to keep organized as a caregiver: meals, schedules, appointments, medication etc. There are many new technologies to help you keep these things straight. There are many free apps that you can put on your phone to assist you with medication dispensing schedules, appointment reminders and more. With a little bit of research and set up you’ll feel like you have a mini assistant helping you with all those tasks.
7. Watch out for Depression
Many caregivers, whose lives have been radically and unexpectedly changed by caring for an ill or disabled loved one, slip into depression disorders. If you're feel down in the dumps for more than a couple days you’re definitely not alone. Just knowing that you are not alone may not make you feel any better, but maybe knowing this will, Depression is an illness, and it can be cured! You don't have to go through the rest of your life feeling sad and miserable. Talk to your family doctor and they can help you get the help you need.
8. Give Yourself Credit
Stepping into the role of caregiver might just be the toughest job you've ever had and you’re doing everything you can to make your loved one’s life easier. Take a moment to give yourself a pat on the back and give yourself some credit for all you do. You’re doing a great job!
CANES Community Care offers Caregiver Support & Counselling to family members and/or others caring for a senior. Our counsellor provides individual support, advocacy and resources, assisting with a variety of social and emotional issues. Click here for more information: https://www.canes.on.ca/services/caregiver-support-counselling