Caring for the Caregiver

Caring for the caregiver may be the most overlooked part of caring for a family member who is aging or has a debilitating illness that requires your support. Finding time to take care of yourself is very difficult in the face of the constantly shifting needs of the person you are caring for.  Often when you feel that a routine has been established, their care needs change leaving you to adapt.

Many caregivers struggle to find reliable professional caregivers to be part of their team. Family members often serve as the last line of defense when a care worker is ill or fails to show up for a shift. Your family member may be insistent that you provide their care and resist accepting care from anyone outside the family.  Money may be in short supply limiting your options for finding help.

There are no easy answers to these and the one thousand other dilemmas that your family situation presents. Within yourself, you need to cultivate a resilient nature to deal with ups and downs. The caregiver support section of this website is designed to offer suggestions and resources to help you fulfill the promise that agreeing to care for a family reflects. Whether your family member has dementia or some other type of illness, the nature and basics of caregiving are the same.

Caring for the Caregiver Key Strategies

Carve out some small segment of time for yourself, even if it is just the time it takes to brew and drink a cup of coffee.  Ideally, this time will happen each day and experience tells me that it may not. Stepping out of your caregiving role for even a few minutes a day gives you time to breathe.

Plan ahead when you can. The unexpected ups and downs of caregiving take their toll on your physical and emotional well being. By anticipating what may happen in the future, you can buffer some of the changes that may come your way.

Start by thinking about the most likely ways that your family member may change. For example, if your family member spends time alone during the day while you are at work or doing outside activities, ask yourself what you would do if they could not stay alone. Brainstorm answers and find resources that would help you solve this problem.  Having a plan and gathering resources in advance smooths the way forward.

Join a support group. Being with other caregivers, let’s you know that you are not alone, that others face similar challenges.  You can learn tips and tricks from more experienced caregivers and the group leader. I’m not sure why knowing that other people have similar or worse challenges than you do helps but it works. A support group is a worthwhile investment of your time and energy.

Caring for the caregiver is just about as hard as caring for your family member. Investing in your wellness when caring for a family member pays dividends of physical and mental health, resilience in the face of change and the ability to maintain your commitment to caregiving.