Family caregivers are motivated by many things, including guilt, filial duty, and societal expectations. But most are motivated by love and a desperate desire to make things better for a person whom they hold dear.
In the process they often forget themselves.
This is the easiest mistake to make—and it can be fatal. Literally. So whether you have slowly slipped into the caregiving role or had it thrust on you unexpectedly, here are five things that can help you stay on a more even keel.
- Find help BEFORE you're completely overwhelmed. Start enlisting other family members and friends, explore community services (some volunteer organizations offer free help), think about scheduling a home aide or visiting nurse.
- Seek out other caregivers. There’s nothing like wisdom born of experience—and there’s no reason to recreate the wheel. Support groups—whether in-person or online—are a great source for practical advice, understanding ears, and the support you may need for tough decisions. Ask your doctor for a reference or look online for caregiver groups.
- Get organized. All the medications and prohibitions and medical appointments can begin to run together, until you hardly remember your name, much less what you are meant to do with this blue contraption or whether a reading of 380 is good or bad. Use a tool to keep it all straight.
- Sort out all the legal and financial issues now, so you are ready when problems arise. Hard as it is to find the time, it will be much easier now than later.
- Remember your own life. The one you had before all this started. It’s really easy to lose yourself in caregiving…and it’s really difficult to find that person again. So make sure to take time for yourself and the things that are really core to your being.