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Family Caregiving: Sharing the Work

By Rita L. Calderon

(Page 3 of 3)
  1. Professional Support, if and when needed – that goes for both of you. 
    For the care receiver:   When is it time for a home health aide or paid companion?  Whether you need respite for yourself or a total replacement, there are many levels of need between the person who needs some companionship plus some cooking, and someone who cannot perform activities of daily living (ADL’s) without assistance, like dressing, bathing, eating, continence, or are at risk for falling.  A professional home health aide may be necessary simply because the daughter, who has been doing it all, is not physically strong enough to lift her father.  Sometimes the family caregiver is too personally close to the situation to be objective; therefore, a doctor, nurse practitioner, social worker, or geriatric care manager can help assess the need for appropriate care by a certified home health aide or attendant, or for residential placement in assisted living or nursing home.  It may be four hours a week respite for meal preparation, or it may be 24/7, but clarifying the level of need will greatly help to reduce stress.
    For the caregiver:  Many items on the assessment checklist above are symptoms of depression and anxiety.  For some, all we need is a little emotional support and information.  Plugging into sources such as this magazine, Today’s Caregiver, and its many supportive Web links (discussion forum, newsletter, etc.) can prevent isolation.  Other organizations offer caregiver support groups; it can be enormously helpful to share your experiences with others to alleviate the sense of isolation.  But if low moods persist, if sleep or eating disruption, anxiety or irritability continue, or you just want to talk about what you are going through, you might benefit from psychotherapy or counseling to enhance coping, better manage stress and set future goals.

  2. Self Care.  Sleep!  Eat!  Exercise!  Accessorize!  As much as possible, maintain a normal routine.  Stay in touch with friends.  Make a date with yourself each week to indulge in things you like; something simple can seem like a luxury, like sipping latte in a bookstore and reading for pure pleasure (fiction, poetry, books on the world’s 100 most beautiful quilts, or the history of paella; you get the idea – not books on caregiving), burying your watch deep inside your handbag and silencing the cell phone.  Go to the spa, meditation class, movies, a candlelit dinner with champagne, or sit home listening to music—whatever gives you pleasure.  Risking an old cliché here, you cannot help someone else if you are not in good shape.  First, be your own good caregiver.


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