Life is A Journey… For Caregivers

This post was taken from a talk Ann Wolf gave for caregivers at the NJLAP on August 11,2012.

Life is a journey. As we make our way through it there are people to help us. Parents, siblings, spouses, friends, children and of course ourselves.  As we travel down our path each of these people give us something.

A person must have: Dedication, Determination and Love. These are the building blocks of our life. They are the lessons we learn from our parents.

What happens when they falter, when they can no longer help themselves?  Hopefully, we are not so jaded or self-absorbed that we reach out just as they did. We become a care giver.

The definition of a Caregiver-from is

A person who cares for someone who is sick or disabled.

I know that the title of this talk is Caregivers and the aged, but the same dilemma you run into with the aged can be seen with those who are young, have a catastrophic illness or a mental illness. There is no timetable for how long it will last or reason. You can be a caregiver for years, months, or weeks.

There are many things to consider when becoming a caregiver, finances, health concerns and physical or mental issues.

Caregivers must be the one to “get over” and overlook emotional hurdles and unresolved issues. Just like those they care for, whether from illness, age or accident, caregivers are just as likely to be depressed, withdrawn or anxious.

An individual providing care should take care of their own physical and mental health. They should set realistic goals. Exercise their body and their mind, get sleep, eat right. Treat yourself and indulge yourself. Stay connected to friends and family.

In order to help themselves in this journey and be effective, caregivers must be;

  • Effective
  • Help to Reduce distress and stress
  • Find hope
  • And are supported

So, what does a caregiver for an elderly relation do?  There are no specifics, every case is different but they can include;

  • Providing a home
  • Legal help and support
  • Help with financial decisions
  • Deal with medical issues and/or mental health issues
  • Help them make decisions

Being a caregiver can be very rewarding and very stressful. Getting burnt out happens frequently and effects the elderly relative and the caregiver.

Signs you are getting burnt out;

  1. Becoming overwhelmed or frustrated
  2. Lack of concentration
  3. Lashing out at the one you are caring for
  4. Lack of compassion
  5. Depression

Here are some tips for coping as a caregiver

  • Find a support system – you must do this to cope with stress, uncertainty and loneliness. Friends, co-workers, support groups, therapist, doctors, religious leaders can provide this type of support. There are organizations to help you cope with many aspects of care giving including American Cancer Society, NJ Dept of the Aged. Every major illness or syndrome has a group such as for Alzheimers, Tourette’s, and many others.
  • Stay informed and don’t be afraid to ask questions
  • Understand the course of your loved ones treatment, medication, including side effects reasons for each drug they are prescribed
  • Try to keep your life as “normal” “usual” as possible. Try to maintain a balance between parent and own life.
  • You must learn to prioritize and if there is a problem, deal with it.
  • Give yourself a break – Don’t feel selfish for taking time for yourself
  • Rejuvenate your spirit
  • Don’t forget religion or your own spiritual road. It has been found that belief, prayer and / or meditation can help you survive anything.
  • Do not lose hope-face the future for both your parent and yourself
  • Make sure you have all necessary information; insurance,bank accounts, wills, attorney names, drug lists

If you can only get these 5 things from this talk let it be;

  1. Be informed
  2. Make connections
  3. Manage pain, physical and mental
  4. Stay healthy
  5. Respect privacy
  6. And BREATHE
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