Day in and day out, more than 65 million family caregivers in this country fulfill a vital role on the care team. No one else is in a better position to ensure continuity of care. Family caregivers are the most familiar with their care recipients’ medicine regimen; they are the most knowledgeable about the treatment regimen; and they understand best the dietary and exercise regimen.
This statement made by the National Family Caregivers Association (NFCA) paints a vivid picture in the minds of caregivers. The selfless daily acts these people make on a continual basis inspire us.
National Family Caregivers Month takes place each November and provides an opportunity to raise awareness of family caregiver issues, celebrate the efforts of family caregivers, educate family caregivers about self-identification, and increase support for family caregivers.
To help FiftyLives show our support for caregivers, our friend Lauri Sachs of the Cincinnati office of Homewatch CareGivers offered this list of 10 important things all caregivers need to keep in mind:
- Accept help. Be prepared with a list of ways that others can help you and let the helper choose what he or she would like to do. For instance, one person might be happy to take the person you care for on a walk a couple of times a week. Someone else might offer to pick up groceries for you.
- Don’t give in to guilt. Feeling guilty is normal, but understand that no one is a “perfect” caregiver. You’re doing the best you can at any given time. Your house does not have to be perfect, and no one will care if you eat leftovers three days in a row. And you don’t have to feel guilty about asking for help.
- Get informed. Organizations such as the Red Cross and the Alzheimer’s Association offer classes on caregiving, and local hospitals may have classes specifically about the disease your loved one is facing.
- Join a support group. A support group can be a great source for encouragement and advice from others in similar situations. It can also be a good place to make new friends.
- Stay connected. Make an effort to stay in touch with family and friends. Set aside time each week for socializing, even if it’s just a walk with a friend. Whenever possible, make plans that get you out of the house.
- Commit to staying healthy. Find time to be physically active on most days of the week, and don’t neglect your need for a good night’s sleep. It’s also crucial to eat a healthy diet.
- See your doctor. Get recommended immunizations and screenings. Make sure to tell your doctor that you’re a caregiver. Don’t hesitate to mention any concerns or symptoms you have.
- Practice self-care. Participate in activities you enjoy. Keep your sense of humor. Reward yourself as often as you can.
- Adopt stress reduction techniques. Try things like yoga, deep breathing, meditation or massage.
- Learn to let go. Accept that you may not be able to do things the way you used to. Simplify your lifestyle to conserve your time and energy for what’s most important.