Caring for someone who is incessantly ill, handicapped, or elderly can be stressful. Here are how you can take care of yourself.
More than 65 million individuals —
29 percent of the U.S. population — provide care for a constantly ill, disabled, or elderly relative or friend during any given year, according to the National Family Caregivers Association. I generally considered being able to care for another person a special privilege. There is a feeling of personal satisfaction, a sense of confidence and a certain closeness that comes from supporting a loved one in a time of need. Psychologists refer to this great combination of feelings as “caregiver gain.”
But I also realize that being a caregiver comes with substantial burdens. So, when I hear about somebody becoming a caregiver for a loved one, I always ask, “Who is taking care of you?” It is akin to the advice that flight attendants give before takeoff: In the event of an emergency, you must put on your own oxygen mask first before assisting others. Taking care of yourself is one of the keys to meeting the care needs of your loved one.
While it may feel like nobody can assist your loved one precisely the way you can, others are quite capable of providing extraordinary relief for you. If your own family is unable to give you a break from your duties, you can seek support outside of your family. Here are a few suggestions:
Seek respite care.
Respite care gives caregivers with temporary relief, from some hours to half a month. Respite services are available through in-home care agencies, adult day health services or facilities that allow for short-term stays.
Take advantage of working environment policies.
Check with your company’s Employee Assistance Program to learn about available policies that may be valuable to caregivers.
Check your insurance or Medicare.
Depending on your approach and benefits, you may be qualified to cover the cost of a home health aid or different services.
Search for services that offer delivery for free or a small fee, for example, pharmacies or grocery stores. A laundry service could also truly lighten your load.
Use your group.
Frequently religious institutions have volunteers who are willing to assist. Also, check with your local high school: Many students need to complete volunteer community service hours. School officials can give you a list of available and reliable students who might be perfect for you.
Look into financial grants.
Being a caregiver can dramatically affect your finances. The American Medical Association evaluates that 26 percent of caregivers spend up to 10 percent of their monthly income on caregiving expenditures. Even if the person receiving care has sufficient income, being a caregiver might require you to reduce your work hours or quit work entirely. If this happens to you, investigate options for financial grants. The National Family Caregiver Support Program (NFCSP), for example, provides grants to states to fund a range of support for family and casual parental figures.
As you care for others, be sure to care for yourself as well. When you are cared for, you are in the best position to care for others.