A caregiver is defined as anyone who provides help to a person in need. Caregiving can be a winding road whose path is not always made clear, especially when providing care for people who are experiencing Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, or any other type of affliction that causes physical deterioration or memory loss. In an effort to set clear goals for the personal heroes known as caregivers, we’ve put together a list of tips to guide and support those who are new to the caregiving occupation, and may be looking for advice on how to better themselves in the caregiving field, or who are just looking to improve the quality of their care.
Seek Support from Fellow Caregivers
With a growing population of people 65 years and older, the caregiving profession is increasing in supply and demand. This means more resources are readily available to caregivers than ever before, specifically advice from peers. There are numerous online communities devoted to discussions surrounding the topic of caregiving, so don’t be afraid to seek out help if you’re new. Be proactive and incite a discussion that will be helpful for those new to caregiving down the road. Swap product advice and talk about adult diapers, ointments and other bathroom products. The internet is your oyster, so open it up and use it to your advantage.
Know How to Manage Stress
If you are feeling sad, having headaches, experiencing fluctuations in weight or even just general fatigue, you may be too stressed. We recommend talking to someone about how you feel, whether that is a friend, family member or support group, getting your thoughts and feelings out for someone to hear is cathartic.
Setting small, realistic goals for yourself is another way to improve your mental state. Whether you set goals for your patient or yourself, create a list and keep track of what you complete. Remember, being a caregiver is not easy, so creating an easy-to-read list can do wonders when you feel lost.
Finally, don’t be afraid to ask for or accept help. Caregiving can become too overwhelming for one person to handle, and allowing someone to help you with some more general tasks can be liberating. There are volumes of advice to be found online on how to manage the stress that comes with being a caregiver, so looking back to our first point: do a bit of online research!
Learn Everything You Can About Your Patient’s Health
In a previous blog we wrote about caring for patients who have dementia, we made it a point to educate yourself and learn everything about the disease you can. Whether your patient is experiencing dementia, Parkinson’s or another disease, you want to be prepared so you can remain calm when something unexpected comes up. We recommend taking an inquisitive, assertive approach when communicating with doctors and health care providers. Prioritize any questions you have in mind so you can get clear answers, and if you’re unsure of answers you’re given, ask for clarification. Being prepared will allow you to remain calm and focused and obtain the information you need.
Keep Your Health in Check
Managing your mental health is important, but managing your physical health sets the foundation for how you handle your stress. Seeing your physician means you’re off to a great start, but eating healthier foods and exercising are necessary to boosting your physical and mental state. Being an effective caregiver begins with how you feel. If you feel like you are not in top condition at any time, take action.
If you’re new to exercising, starting small is a step in the right direction. Taking walks can reduce stress and tension, promote better sleep habits and allow you time to think. The best part is, this can be done anywhere such as malls, parks or your neighborhood. These are all good places to start getting exercise. If you can manage a walk 2-3 times per week, you’re in good shape.
Providing Long Distance Care
Providing care for someone who is not nearby requires a new approach to caregiving. Regular phone calls, alarms and extra help is a necessity to actively care for your patient. In this case, research local services call to check in, provide transportation or deliver meals. A caregiver often needs extra help, and in the case of long distance care, local services can make all the difference.
Caregiving: You're Not Alone
The takeaway here is: you’re not alone. Providing care for a patient or loved one with deteriorating health or a physical condition can be an enormous task. Staying active, social and organized is the best way to approach your day-to-day responsibilities.