National Caregiver’s Month: Top Advice from Caregivers
If you provide regular assistance to a family member, you know caregiving can be one of life’s highest callings. You may not know that your caregiving puts you in good company; more than 65 million adults in the United States act as care partners for relatives.
With so many people serving as caregivers, you need not feel alone in facing the accompanying challenges. In honor of November being National Caregiver’s Month, we’ve compiled the best advice we have heard from family caregivers. By incorporating these tips, you can reduce stress and focus on spending quality time with your family member.
Realistically Assess the Level of Care Needed
If you’re about to begin acting as a caregiver or have recently started providing care, it will be helpful to understand the specific needs of your relative. Once you become busy with a variety of tasks on a daily basis, it may be more difficult to take a step back and consider the big picture.
To make a realistic assessment of the degree and level of care your family member requires, create a list of all the tasks you are performing or expect to perform. Consider whether your family member needs constant supervision, including at night and on the weekends. Once you have a better understanding of the care needed, you can determine if you can do everything while attending to your own health and other responsibilities.
Understand the Costs Involved
Almost half of caregivers who work outside of the home report that the expenses related to caregiving have depleted some or all of their savings. Before you quit a job to provide assistance to a family member full-time, consider the financial ramifications.
While you will have more time to devote to your family member, that additional time may be offset by the income you lose and the potential shortfall to your own retirement savings. If you do decide to leave your job, consider the benefits you will lose, the difficulty of finding a similar position in the future and whether your skills will remain marketable.
Take Care of Yourself First
Caregiving for a relative can be physically demanding, and it’s important to ensure you can provide the required assistance safely, without risking your own health. If you do not take care of yourself — including getting sufficient rest and relaxation — you likely will be unable to provide the level of care your family member needs.
To better understand and honor your own needs, consider the “Caregiver Bill of Rights,” which includes the right to take care of yourself and attend to concerns outside the needs of your relative.
Seek Knowledge and Support
Even experienced caregivers can still learn, and they need support from time to time. More than 40 percent of surveyed caregivers say that reading books on the topic helps them deal with stress. In addition, visiting informational websites can help manage daily challenges and provide a feeling of community.
In-person support groups meet around the country and can help as well. For instance, if you are providing care for a relative with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia, you can find a support group through the Alzheimer’s Association.
Know Your Limits and Take Breaks
Even though you have committed to serving as a caregiver for your family member, you still need to take breaks to refresh and recharge. As a family caregiver, you demonstrate exceptional strength and persistence, but it’s critical to understand your physical and emotional limits.
If you need a temporary break to attend to personal matters, take a vacation, or simply rest and recharge, consider a short stay program in which trained professionals provide for all your family member’s care needs. With fully furnished, private rooms, nutritious meals, housekeeping, laundry, activities and assistance with personal hygiene, short stay programs serve as an ideal option when full-time caregivers need some time for themselves.
Get Help When You Need It
In addition to using a short stay program when you need a longer break, it’s important for caregivers to seek out support and assistance on an ongoing basis. Consider asking friends or family members if they can commit to contributing some time regularly, or ask them to take on certain tasks on a regular basis. It’s likely that many people in your life are willing to lend a hand.
A supportive living community also can provide care on a permanent basis, freeing you of caregiving responsibilities and allowing you to focus on simply spending time with your family member. The Brielle at Seaview offers several supportive living options in a scenic setting on Staten Island. You can feel confident that your family member will be comfortable and engaged, with a full array of services.