Talk with other Caregivers
Join a support group. Sharing with others who are in a similar situation can help and give you new ideas for coping. Discussing the stresses involved with caregiving will help provide relief. Talking with friends and relatives can also be helpful, or a counselor can also provide assistance.
Make Time for Yourself
Taking time off from caregiving is essential and can help avoid burnout. Be sure to ask for and accept help from friends or neighbors who can stay with your patient. Develop a list of ways that others can help. If you have it ready when they offer, you may be more likely to get them to help. Even an hour to yourself can make a great difference in your ability to be effective and to continue to provide care. You may need more of a break than you realize. Contact DUTCHESS NY Connects at 486-2555 to learn about available options including home care and respite.
Attend a caregiver training class. You will learn the proper methods of hands-on care and about other issues related to effective caregiving. Contact the Office For The Aging at 486-2555 for information.
Get Enough Rest
Often, when we don't get sufficient rest, things that once seemed manageable may suddenly become unbearable. If you don't take care of yourself, you won't be able to continue to be a caregiver. See your doctor regularly, get screened for stress and depression and get plenty of rest. You are needed.
If you are able to get your care recipient on a sleep schedule, it may help you to get the rest you need. If possible, sleep in a different room from the person you are caring for. You may try using a monitor so you will know if the person wakes up or needs you.
Watch Your Diet
Eat regular, healthy meals with plenty of fruits, vegetables, grains and proteins. Without an adequate diet, we can quickly wear down. Avoid eating too much sugar, fat, and salt in foods and drinks with caffeine. Try to avoid alcohol. While alcohol and drugs may seem like they help stress, they will wear you down in the long run.
Even a few minutes per day of exercise can help to reduce stress. Walking is an easy way to get needed exercise, and can give you a social outlet if you go with friends. If you are not able to leave your caregiving duties, you can exercise in the house by stretching, walking or jogging in place. If you are caring for someone who should get exercise, try doing it together.
Keep a Sense of Humor
Laughter can release chemicals in your body which will help you feel better. Try to find humor in difficult situations. It can help to relieve stress. Spend time with friends who like to have fun and can make you laugh.
If your job and caregiving responsibilities conflict, talk to your supervisor about flextime or other ways to rearrange your schedule to allow time for caregiving. Try to let go of some activities or duties.
Talk to a professional health care worker about your loved one's illness or disease. Search online for more in-depth information. Your local library can be an invaluable resource. Contact the Adriance Library (485-3445) about Caregiver materials that can be borrowed at your local library.
Make your home safe for your loved one. Be aware of fire hazards such as stoves, other appliances, matches, lighters and cigarettes. Watch for loose rugs, cluttered pathways and inadequate lighting. Adjust the water heater temperature to prevent burns. Install bathroom grab bars and non-skid rugs.
Learn how to set limits. Don't allow yourself to be manipulated. You must set reasonable limits for what you can do without feeling guilty.
Learn About Your Options
In-home care options include personal care, homemaker, meals on wheels, transportation, emergency response system and hospice. Many caregivers hire their own workers privately or pay an agency directly to provide care. Your loved one can receive help with bathing, dressing, feeding , toileting and light housekeeping. DUTCHESS NY Connects can evaluate the situation to determine the level of care needed and help arrange for services.
Out of Home options include adult day care services, assisted living facilities, residential care facilities, retirement housing and nursing home care.
Evaluate in writing both your short-term and your long-term needs as a caregiver. Start by listing those things you might need help with now and in the future. For example, a short-term need might be to move your mother's bed downstairs. A long-term need might be transportation to get your mother to the doctor once a month.
Next, make a list of all the informal supports (family members, friends, and neighbors) and how each person can help. Repeat this process for formal supports such as home care agencies and transportation services. It is important to set a time frame for any action that needs to be taken. Having a plan and implementing that plan will greatly reduce your stress as a caregiver.
The Dutchess County Office For The Aging/DUTCHESS NY Connects Family Caregivers Support Program offers and funds a variety of services designed to assist caregivers of aging relatives. These services are described below along with the agency and phone number to call for more information.
Caregiving Training and Support - Workshops in such areas as practical tips, stress management, coping skills and legal issues for caregivers are held monthly. For more information, call Mid Hudson Regional Licensed Home Care of Westchester Medical Center at 483-5551.
Adult Day Care - Call DUTCHESS NY Connects for information 486-2555.
Overnight Respite - Call DUTCHESS NY Connects for information 486-2555.
Case Management - Call DUTCHESS NY Connects for information 486-2555.
Alzheimer's Counseling, Support Group & Educational Programming - Call the Alzheimer's Association 471-2655.
Personal Emergency Response Systems - Call DUTCHESS NY Connects for information 486-2555.
Home Care - Homemaking/Personal Care and Housekeeper services may be available. Call DUTCHESS NY Connects 486-2555.
Services for Grandparents Raising Grandchildren - Day Camp tuition is available as a respite service. Support Groups are available in Poughkeepsie and Fishkill, as well as workshops, case assistance counseling and a directory of services. Parenting A Second Time Around workshop series is also offered occasionally. For information about any of these services, contact Cornell Cooperative Extension. 677-8223 x 137.
Minor Home Modifications - such as grab bars, railings, wireless doorbell, toilet risers, etc. may be available. Call Rebuilding Together for information 454-7310.
Other Resources for Caregivers:
Alzheimer's Association http://www.alz.org/
Eldercare Locator http://www.eldercare.gov/
Family Caregiver Alliance http://www.caregiver.org/
National Alliance for Caregiving http://www.caregiving.org/
National Association of Geriatric Care Managers http://www.caremanager.org/