Even if you are not a caregiver now, there is a high chance that you may act as a caregiver for a loved one at some point in the future, whether you are husband or wife, child, or friend.
Caregivers provide assistance that addresses someone’s mental, physical, emotional, or spiritual needs. Your role as a caregiver can exist on different levels and encompass varying responsibilities, but regardless of the type of caregiver you are, you provide valuable assistance to someone who needs it.
In the midst of your role of caring for your loved one, you must remember to only handle what you can and refrain from the pitfalls of being emotionally distanced, both from family members and everyone else. This advice is especially sage if you are a caregiver who plans to, or have been tending to someone for a long time.
If you have siblings, chances are that as you enter the caregiving waters, you and your siblings will first discuss how to appropriate the caregiving tasks. For any number of personal reasons, however, there may be a family member who is uncomfortable with partaking in caregiving duties. In such circumstances, an accepting attitude is key; do not go through the trouble of arguing and trying to force him or her into caregiving tasks.
“A reluctant caregiver is a resistant caregiver and one not helpful to your situation,” says Rick Lauber, an experienced caregiver, in his book Caregiver’s Guide for Canadians. “Caregiving requires ability, desire, trust, and dedication, so if a sibling does not want to help out, it’s best to accept this and carry on.”
If everyone in your family is willing to share the responsibilities, talk openly about each of the tasks that you are willing or unwilling to take up. Although it may be tempting to take on many responsibilities to personally provide assistance to your loved one, don’t be afraid to delegate some of the responsibilities to your family members – after all, they are there to help in times of need. Attempting to take on more than you can would only lead to stress, and may cause you to be emotionally distanced from your loved one and other family members.
Caregivers should keep in touch with friends and hobbies; remembering to take time off is important for emotional balance. Caregiving can be extremely stressful, as you may need to be on a constant lookout and assist even with what seems like menial tasks such as eating, washing, and changing. Things can feel especially tense if your loved one has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, as he or she may be more unstable, both emotionally and physically. In such cases, it is all the more true that you should take good care of yourself.
Caregiving can consume a big part of your life. However, never compromise your own well being; decide if caregiving is something you can realistically do well, and if you go ahead with it, be sure to take care of yourself. As Lauber says in his book, “You cannot burn the candle at both ends for long before the candle burns through. Take some time for you and never feel guilty for doing so. This is far easier said than done; however, you will retain your own sanity and not become a martyr.”
Caregiver’s Guide for Canadians is available in our Web store where you can preview content from the book and view the complete table of contents.
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