My latest issue of Nursing 2013 came in the mail yesterday. Usually I set magazines aside for later reading, but the title article on this one caught my eye immediately:
Easing the burden on family caregivers
I've been a full-time caregiver of a high-level quadriplegic son for sixteen years. I love my job, but I'm always willing to learn anything to ease the workload. I grabbed it and scanned past the clinical stuff to get to the end. I wanted to see what their ideas were for "easing the burden."
As I guessed, there was no magic bullet, no miraculous new methods for helping family caregivers. There were, however, some things worth noting. Today I've pulled out a few of their ideas and added a few things we've learned over the years to share with those who care for loved ones.
5 Ways to Ease Caregiver Strain:
1. Learn to depend on others for help.
Caregiving is a marathon. No one can take on such duties day after day after day without respite or assistance. It's hard to ask others for help, to feel needy. But those around you may wish they could help somehow and just not know what to do. If you're not comfortable with having them take over the actual caregiving duties, you could see if they would be willing assist you in chores once in a while. If you have the financial resources, you can also pay for such chores as yard work and picking up groceries to save valuable time and energy.
Getting help not only relieves the physical burden, it allows both caregiver and patient a chance to interact with others, a vital necessity for both physical and emotional health.
2. Adapt an assertive, rather than a passive, coping style.
Those who are naturally more passive are more susceptible to crumbling under the burden of caregiving. They tend to stay isolated, worry more, ask fewer questions, and develop a negative attitude.
A healthier coping lifestyle involves actively taking charge of the situation, asking questions and pursuing the answers that will benefit both the caregiver and the patient.
3. Learn all you can.
Understanding what is happening to your family member is crucial to providing the best care with the least amount of emotional strain. Research the disease process or injury, available treatments, and the usual prognosis. It's especially important to know such basic techniques as how to correctly turn a person in bed, infection control, and bed sore prevention. Know what community, church, and government resources are available.
4. Be kind to yourself.
Caregivers often put the needs of their loved ones ahead of their own needs. In order to take good care of others, you need to be good to yourself, as well. This is easier said than done, since it's often hard to find time for anything besides work. Try to give yourself permission to care for you. Your family member needs for you to be well.
Hospital emergency departments employ a term called "triage" to decide which patients should be treated first. The idea is to put the most important cases at the front of the line. Do this with your life. Develop your own triage system to care for the "worst first" in your day. If a chore can wait until tomorrow and you're exhausted, put it at the end of the line. This works well for emotional issues, too. Don't waste your tears on things that aren't worth your energy.
5. Talk to someone.
Develop an emotional support system. Have at least one or two people who you can call when you need to cry, vent, or just talk. Don't just run to those who will agree with everything you say, though. Develop friendships with those who will listen and speak the truth. It's a two-way street; engaging with others gives our lives new perspective. It may even ignite a fresh appreciation for all we have gained through our own situations.