CAREGIVERS: Are You Taking Care of Yourselves?

Article Categories: Caregiver Corner & What is a CNA?

What is a caregiver? The dictionary defines it simply as “Someone who takes care of the ill or disabled.” But ask anyone who helps a person and the family, and you will get a better understanding of all that’s required, every single day. The National Cancer Institute explains, “Giving care can mean helping with daily needs. These include going to doctor visits, making meals, and picking up medicines. It can also mean helping to cope with feelings. Like when he or she feels sad or angry. Sometimes having someone to talk to is what is needed most.”

Who is a caregiver?

Helping a sick person may seem natural. According to the New York Times, over 37 million people step into the role of caregiver every day; the number is expected to skyrocket as baby boomers age. Anyone who assumes some responsibility in assisting with daily or routine activities can be a caregiver:

• Professional or licensed medical staff, such as a Certified Nurse Assistant, a Medical Assistant, a Licensed Practical Nurse, or a Registered Nurse
• Family members and partners
• Neighbors and friends
• Volunteers

What should every caregiver know?

Whether a hands-on professional or a loved one, caregivers learn that the constant attention to the physical and emotional needs of the patient can be intense. Attending to 24-hour care can lead to stress, exhaustion, and burnout. It may seem normal to put the patient first; after all, he or she is totally dependent on you. But it is vital to remember that if you neglect yourself, you won’t be able to take care of anyone else. Think of the airplane safety instructions: Put on your own oxygen mask before helping others. This is true for all caregivers, too.

How can a caregiver provide self-care?

It’s not easy to consider your own needs, but essential that you do. Even small breaks from the routine can be beneficial. Consider these six tips:

• Don’t feel guilty. A respite will help you relax and allow you to recharge.
• Be active. Even a 10-minute walk in the fresh air lowers your stress level.
• Stay healthy. Eat well, get enough sleep, and get routine check-ups.
• Keep up your interests. Don’t forget your hobbies or favorite TV shows.
• Connect with friends. Join Facebook, make phone calls, send emails and go to lunch.
• Find a support group. Professionals have colleagues who understand the job stress. Family and others can find local support groups or even online.
• Ask for and accept help. No one can be a successful solo caregiver. Learn to ask for what you need, and to gratefully accept offers. People like to help. Let them!

Being able to provide care for a child with a chronic condition; an elderly parent with dementia; or a terminally ill patient who wishes to die at home can be both rewarding and stressful. Many people gain strength and experience personal growth as a caregiver. Whether care giving is your career or your current role, taking care of yourself will allow you to do your best for everyone.


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