As a primary caregiver, know that you are not alone. Other caregivers share similar thoughts and feelings. Talk with someone if your feelings get in the way of daily life. Maybe you have a family member, friend, doctor, counselor, or spiritual leader to talk to. It’s common to feel stressed and overwhelmed. Like your loved one, you may feel angry, sad, or worried. Try to share your feelings with others whom can help you or truly have concern for you. Due to the high importance of the caregiver burden regarding the caregiving process, it is necessary to develop interventions to reduce the burden. It is my belief that successful interventions should be available to as many caregivers as possible, as soon as possible.
Unburdening interventions for caregivers should consider four central aspects:
- Informational and Professional support
- Personal and Family support
- Effective communication
- Public and Financial support
There are different supporting services, e.g. caregiver counselling, professional training, self-help groups, ambulant nursing services or technical help like intelligent light to preserve the autonomy of the person in need of care. Other than your doctor or your counselor, other resources for caregivers include:
- National Cancer Institute, Website: cancer.gov En español: www. cancer.gov/espanol
- American Cancer Society Cancer, cancer.org
- Family Caregiver Alliance Support for families and friends who are caregivers, caregiver.org
- Caregiver Action Network Information, education, and support for caregivers, caregiveraction.org
- AARP Caregiving Resources, aarp.org/caregiving
Another effective relief is the support given to caregivers by family members, friends and acquaintances. They provide emotional and instrumental support and are an important source to access supporting services. Asking for help from your family, friends, and acquaintances, also employs the needed techniques for effective communication. Being able to communicate constructively is one of a caregiver’s most important tools. When you communicate in ways that are clear, assertive and constructive, you will be heard and get the help and support you need.
When people have asked if they can be of help to you, how often have you replied, “Thank you, but I’m fine.” Many caregivers don’t know how to marshal the goodwill of others and are reluctant to ask for help. You may not wish to “burden” others or admit that you can’t handle everything yourself. Let go of that stigma or train of thought, and be prepared with a mental list of ways that others could help you. For example, someone could take the person you care for on a 15-minute walk a couple of times a week. Your neighbor could pick up a few things for you at the grocery store. A relative could fill out some insurance papers or pick up prescriptions each month. When you break down the jobs into very simple tasks, it is easier for people to help. And oftentimes, they do want to help. It is up to you to tell them how.
Additionally, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Don’t wait until you are overwhelmed and exhausted or your health fails. Reaching out for help when you need it is a sign of personal strength. Remember, if you get help for yourself:
■ You may stay healthier and have more energy.
■ You may have more time to spend with your spouse or significant other.
■ Your loved one may feel less guilty about your help.
■ Other helpers may feel valued by getting involved.
■ Other helpers may offer time and skills that you don’t have.
But don’t get discouraged if your requests fall on deaf ears. Know that some people may say, “No.” Some people may not be able to help. There could be one or more reasons such as:
■ They may be coping with their own problems.
■ They may not have time right now.
■ They may not know how to help.
■ They may honestly not want to help.
■ They may feel uneasy around people who are sick.
Just prepare yourself as best to you can to realize that everyone is not ready or equipped to deal with the responsibilities you may incur as a primary resource for a loved one. As a caregiver, try to remember to:
■ Strike a balance each day.
■ Focus on your needs, too.
■ Care for yourself while caring for your loved one.
■ Make time for rest, relaxation, and those important to you.
Life-changing events often give people the chance to grow. They may help people see what’s most important to them. Many say that caring for someone changes them forever. They used their strengths to support their loved one. And they learned more about themselves along the way.
Next week we’ll discuss other topics that I hope may help you. Just remember, it is not selfish to focus on your own needs and desires when you are a caregiver—it’s an important part of the job. After all, if you do not take care of yourself, then how will you be able to take care of others? Until next week, take care!