During my work to help nourish health, happiness and prosperity I have found lots of information to help people who are recovering from health challenges like strokes, cancer and heart attacks but typically I have not found much information for people who are taking care of the person who is recovering from the health challenge.
Often, in my experience the information for the caregiver is a short chapter at the end of a book on how to take care of the patient. Since at this moment due to a relative’s stroke I am sharing some of my time as a caregiver I became inspired to write this article to offer my thoughts on how to nourish the health of the caregiver. Since a healthy caregiver is important to the long term care of a recovering patient.
14 ways to take Care of Yourself when you are a Caregiver
Over the years as a professional educator I have met many a Nurse and Doctor at one of my seminars who admitted to me they need to learn more about self care. So it is not surprising that the average person who is not a trained caregiver can have challenges taking care of themselves as a ‘new’ caregiver to a loved one.
If I may suggest when you become a caregiver note the following:
Remember to Deal with Confusion
When a relative has a health challenge you are most likely not going to know what needs to be done and how the treatment will progress. Expect confusion and when you have the confusion write down the questions you have and take the time to ask the doctor, the nurses and social workers in attendance for answers. In addition, do your own research through information available at your local hospital. When you deal with your concerns and questions you will most likely feel more confident and capable in the work you are doing
Note: If you do research online make sure you double check the validity of your resources.
Be aware of the Impact on your Time
Depending on the severity of the health challenge the patient may need full time care for months or longer. If the patient requires full time attention or even attention 8 hours a day you will need to find assistance from other people so you can take care of your personal needs. You need to remain healthy so you can help the patient. If you get sick you will be no help to the one you love.
Be Aware of the Impact on your Finances
Even if recovery is short term you as a caregiver need to plan for the impact of your volunteered time on your financial resources. When I gave up work to help a friend out the initial financial impact was small at first but overtime it became significant since I had very little savings. On reflection I now know I needed to continue working part time and request other people to cover for me when I was at work.
It is very important to consider if you have the financial resources to cover the time you spend being a caregiver otherwise you will only create stress for yourself.
One practical idea is to do a budget for your projected time as a caregiver and see what is financially feasible. To help check out You Need A Budget
Note: If financial support for your time or the patient is available through health insurance seek this as soon as possible or have someone help you apply for it.
Be Aware of the Impact on your Career
If you take an extended period of time off from your career to care for a loved one you will need to consider the impact on your career development. Sometimes employers will give you a leave of absence and reconsider you when you wish to return for work, sometimes not. So plan ahead how much time you can take off work without impacting your career development unless you wish to be a paid caregiver long term.
Be Aware of the Impact on Domestic Responsibilities
Daily domestic demands will continue with your relative in hospital and even when they arrive at home again these demands will continue until they are able to help you again. So you need to find a way to balance the time you care for the patient with time you need to take care of tasks like shopping, cleaning etc. Plan ahead ask people you know to help cover for you when you need to go shopping. Perhaps you will enjoy doing the shopping since it will give you mental and physical space away from the frequent needs of a person in recovery.
Be Aware of the Physical Impact
Do you have the physical strength to assist the person in need or do you need assistance to move the person in their bed etc. Before you dedicate yourself to being a caregiver consider what you can and cannot do so you can plan ahead for needed assistance.
Be Aware of the Mental Impact
Do you have the stress management skills to keep calm and deal with feelings of frustration as you give your time to care for the one you love? Do you have the state of mind to be positive and encouraging on a long term basis or do you need coaching in this area? Some people already have the stress management skills others don’t. What kind of person are you?
Remember to take Advantage of Valuable Tools
Consider buying tools that can alert you to the fact the patient is in need while you rest. So you can take a peaceful nap. Tools like a Medical Alert Pendant/Bracelet with Monitoring
Remember to Plan for a Break
So you don’t have a negative impact on your own mental and physical health you need to plan to take a vacation from time to time if you are offering long term care to a relative.
To achieve this goal you will need to have someone replace you in the home or find a rehabilitation center where you know your relative will get support that will help them continue their recovery while you are away.
If it is at all possible choose to arrange for care in the home so that the surroundings remain familiar plus home care often ends up being less expensive than placing the recovering person in a care center while you go away. If you need to or choose to go the way of a care center remember to make sure you research the center to make sure you have all your questions answered. If the center won’t answer questions about care check out another.
Whether you leave your loved one being cared for at home or in a center always give a plan of care so the routine of the patient is relatively stable when you are away.
Remember to Plan to Keep in Touch
Keep friends and family in touch with what is happening in terms of progress of your loved one. This keeps communication lines open for times when you need help.
Remember to Accept Help
At first you may think you can do every thing and you refuse help. But in time you will need to take a break. If you don’t want to accept help at first tell people thank you and that you will get back to them. So you keep the door open to receiving assistance because you will most likely need help whether it is for gardening, shopping, cleaning or just extra companionship and emotional support.
Remember to Relax and Socialize
You may not wish to take a vacation but you still need time to relax alone and to socialize with friends to keep a healthy out look on life due to the heavy psychological demands of being a care giver. So plan to have someone cover for you so you can take time to relax and socialize.
Remember to Remain Healthy
If you are having aches and pains, insomnia, irritability, loss of appetite you may be letting your health go down hill. You need plenty of sleep, fresh air, exercise and high quality nutrition as well as inspiring materials to read.
Remember to Invest in Tools that can Help you
Check out tools like
You may also wish to check out books like
What You Really Need to Know About Caring for Someone After a Stroke by Robert Buckman
Stronger After Stroke: Your Roadmap to Recovery by Peter Levine
After a Stroke: 300 Tips for Making Life Easier by Cleo Hutton
My best to you,