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Many people are caring for a chronically ill or disabled spouse, parent, or other family member. Caregiving can be a rewarding experience, especially when you know that your care makes a positive difference. But caregiving can be difficult. There are three tips to being a good caregiver:
This topic will tell you more about these tips and how they can help both you and the person you are caring for.
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Taking care of yourself is your most important step as a caregiver. Caregiving can be stressful, even in the best of situations.
But when caregivers take time to care for themselves, good things usually happen:
Here are some important things you need to find time to do—just for yourself:
Even if they don't admit it, people like to help themselves. Every time you do something for a person that the person could have done without help, there is a double loss. First, your effort may have been wasted. Second, the person has missed an opportunity to help himself or herself.
As a caregiver, your highest goal is to give the person you are caring for the power and the permission to be in control of his or her own life (as much as possible). Every act your loved one makes to maintain independence is a victory for you as a caregiver.
Here are some things you can do to empower the person you are caring for to do things independently:
The best answer to the question, "Is there anything you need?" is "Yes."
"Yes, I need someone to stay here so I can go out." Or "Yes, I could really use a nap." Letting others help can make your caregiving easier. Know where to find help when you need it. The more support you have, the more successful you are likely to be.
When family or friends offer to lend a hand, be ready with specific ideas. Let them pick something they would like to do. For example, you could ask them to:
There are other ways to find support. For example:
Services that may be useful to caregivers include the following:
Respite care may be the most important service for caregivers. Respite services provide someone who will stay with the person while you get out of the house for a few hours. If the person you are caring for needs routine medical care, you may be able to arrange to have the person stay in a nursing home for a few days while you get away for a break.
Adult day centers are "drop-off" sites where a person who does not need individual supervision can stay during the day. This service is usually offered during working hours and may or may not be available on weekends. Meals, personal care services, and social activities are provided.
Adult foster care or board-and-care homes are private homes where older adults receive around-the-clock personal care, supervision, and meals. Some states require board-and-care homes to be licensed.
Nursing homes generally have two levels of care. Intermediate care includes assistance with using the toilet, dressing, and personal care for people who do not have serious medical conditions. Skilled nursing care is usually for people who have just come from the hospital or for others who have medical conditions that require more intensive nursing care. Some facilities have special units for people with dementia.
Hospice programs provide social, personal, and medical services for terminally ill people who wish to spend their remaining time at home or in an environment less formal than a hospital or nursing home.
Support groups give you a chance to discuss problems or concerns about caregiving with other caregivers.
To learn whether these services are available in your community, look under "Senior Citizen Services" in the Yellow Pages.
Take pride in your efforts. Being a caregiver is not easy, and those who do it are special. Following the tips for caregiving can help you feel good about yourself and the care you provide. Remember:
This organization supports and assists people who are providing long-term care at home. It also provides education, research, services, and advocacy.
This Web site is for caregivers and families. It offers many caregiving resources, including where to find help, ways to take care of others and yourself, how to join a caregiver support group, and more. There are links to information about and help for finding support services in your community.
The National Family Caregivers Association (NFCA) educates, supports, empowers, and speaks up for the more than 50 million Americans who care for loved ones with a chronic illness or disability or the frailties of old age. NFCA reaches across the boundaries of diagnoses, relationships, and life stages to address the common needs and concerns of all family caregivers.
CitationsU.S. Department of Health and Human Services (2008). 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans (ODPHP Publication No. U0036). Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office. Available online: http://www.health.gov/paguidelines/guidelines/default.aspx.Other Works ConsultedBoal J, Loengard A (2007). Home care. In RJ Ham et al., eds., Primary Care Geriatrics: A Case-Based Approach, 5th ed., pp. 172–177. Philadelphia: Mosby Elsevier.Family Caregiver Alliance (2003). Fact Sheet: Taking Care of YOU: Self-Care for Family Caregivers. Available online: http://www.caregiver.org/caregiver/jsp/print_friendly.jsp?nodeid=847.Family Caregiver Alliance (2004). Fact Sheet: Caring for Adults with Cognitive and Memory Impairments. Available online: http://www.caregiver.org/caregiver/jsp/print_friendly.jsp?nodeid=392.Family Caregiver Alliance (accessed November 2008). A Guide to Taking Care of Yourself. Available online: http://www.caregiver.org/caregiver/jsp/print_friendly.jsp?nodeid=667.Goldstein NE, Morrison RS (2007). Palliative care. In RJ Ham et al., eds., Primary Care Geriatrics: A Case-Based Approach, 5th ed., pp. 194–205. Philadelphia: Mosby Elsevier.Nusbaum NJ (2007). Rehabilitation. In RJ Ham et al., eds., Primary Care Geriatrics: A Case-Based Approach, 5th ed., pp. 179–193. Philadelphia: Mosby Elsevier.Pinquart M, Sörensen S (2007). Correlates of physical health of informal caregivers: A meta-analysis. Journals of Gerontology, 62B(2): 126–137.Rakel RE, Strauch EM (2011). Care of the dying patient. In RE Rakel, DP Rakel, eds., Textbook of Family Medicine, 8th ed., pp. 53–72. Philadelphia: Saunders.Stiles M, Walsh K (2011). Care of the elderly patient. In RE Rakel, DP Rakel, eds., Textbook of Family Medicine, 8th ed., p. 52. Philadelphia: Saunders.Vitaliano PP, et al. (2003). Is caregiving hazardous to one’s physical health? A meta-analysis. Psychological Bulletin, 129(6): 946–972.
Last Revised: July 6, 2012
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review: Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine & Shelly R. Garone, MD, FACP - Palliative Medicine
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