What a Caregiver Needs to Know

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“Caregiving often calls us to lean into love we didn’t know possible.” – Tia Walker, The Inspired Caregiver: Finding Joy While Caring for Those You Love

Being a family caregiver can be challenging and you will find yourself facing a host of new responsibilities, many of which are unfamiliar or intimidating. During this time, you will likely experience feelings of anger, frustration, guilt, regret, hope, isolation and exhaustion. These are all normal stages of recovery and you must remember that you are not alone and help is available.

If you’re like most family caregivers, you aren’t trained for the responsibilities you now face. And you probably never anticipated you’d be in this situation. You may not even live very close to your loved one. At the same time, you love your family member and want to provide the best care you can. The good news is that you don’t have to be a nursing expert, a superhero, or a saint in order to be a good caregiver. With the right help and support, you can be a good caregiver without having to sacrifice yourself in the process.

There are many things you can do to make the caregiving process easier for both you and your loved one. Most importantly, you must take care of yourself…when you’re healthy, calm and focused, you’ll be a better caregiver. Although providing care for a loved one may feel all-consuming, try to be aware of your own health and the ways any resulting stress may be affecting you.

Rehab can be a long process with slow and sometimes erratic progress – every person’s recovery journey is different. Your role as advocate will continue. During recovery, try to focus on the patient’s capabilities rather than limitations, and to show encouragement for every new accomplishment, small or large.

“One person caring about another represents life’s greatest value”- Jim Rohn

Here are a few tips that can help you get the support you need while caring for someone you love.

#1 – Accept Your Feelings

Caregiving can trigger a host of difficult emotions, including anger, fear, resentment, guilt, helplessness, and grief. It’s important to acknowledge and accept what you’re feeling, both good and bad. These feelings don’t mean that you don’t love your family member—they simply mean you’re human.

#2 – Don’t Try To Do It All

Even if you’re the primary family caregiver, you can’t do everything on your own! Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Not getting the support you need will quickly lead to burn out—ultimately compromising your ability to provide care.

When asking for support, be sure you have a clear understanding of your family member’s needs. Keep a list of all the caregiving tasks required, being as specific as possible and note those you are able to meet (be realistic about your capabilities and time). The remaining tasks on the list are ones you’ll need to ask for help from others. If you simply make your needs known, you may be pleasantly surprised by the willingness of others to pitch in. Many times, friends and family members want to help, but don’t know how.

#3 – Attend to Your Own Needs

It’s essential that you receive the support you need, so you don’t lose that capacity. While you’re caring for your loved one, don’t forget about your own needs. Caregivers need care, too. Take time to relax daily and learn how to regulate yourself and de-stress when you begin to feel overwhelmed. It helps to keep a journal of your thoughts and feelings. This gives you perspective and serves as a way to release strong feelings. Everyone needs support so don’t be afraid to look for support groups in your area that will allow you to engage with others in similar situations and prevent you from becoming isolated. It’s important to not give up activities that are important to you, not only do these activities give you the opportunity to take a break from caregiving, but they also keep you social and doing the things you enjoy.

#4 – Take Advantage of Community Services

There are services to help caregivers in most communities, and the cost is often based on ability to pay or covered by the care receiver’s insurance. Services that may be available in your community include adult day care centers, home health aides, home-delivered meals, respite care, transportation services, and skilled nursing. For help, visit The Brain Injury Association or Brain Injury Alliance to find the local chapter in your state.

“In the heart or every caregiver is a knowing that we are all connected. As I do for you, I do for me.”- Tia Walker, The Inspired Caregiver: Finding Joy While Caring for Those You Love

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