Taking Care of You, the Caregiver

11.Feb.2011by Karen in Your Well-Being· 0 comments

If we had our way, I think we’d all prefer that there was never a need to be a caregiver or receive care, for that matter. That would mean that our parents were happy, healthy, living on their own, doing what they enjoy. However, reality is far different. Most parents will benefit from some kind of care provided by their children.

To make things challenging, it seems that there is a thick streak of independence in most Americans. We’d prefer to do it own own way with no help from anyone. So we should not be surprised when we offer our help, that parents are not necessarily excited to accept it. And as we get to the subject of Taking Care of You, the Caregiver, we should not be surprised that we are just like our parents. We want to do it our own way with no help from anyone. But it doesn’t work for our parents to go it alone and it doesn’t work for us as caregiver to go it alone.

The introduction to the chapter on this topic in the book “And Thou Shalt Honor: The Caregiver’s Companion” begins:

“When running through their preflight safety instructions flight attendants tell the passengers: “If you’re traveling with someone who needs assistance, put on your oxygen mask first, then help the other person.” Why your mask first? Because you can’t help anyone else if you’re struggling yourself.”

As we look at scripture there is a clear picture of interdependent living. Even knowing this, it is still hard to acknowledge the need for and accept help. The New Testament is filled with “one another” verses. We are part of a community of faith, members of the Body of Christ, part of God’s family, brothers and sisters in Christ.

Caregiving is not for the fainthearted. As we look at caregiving, we need to keep in mind that we cannot do this alone. We need and should seek the help of others. All people deal with the events of life in different ways. Some become anxious and experience stress more easily than others. Even for those who are more laid back, becoming a caregiver can be a very stretching experience.

Caregiving like living all of life requires that we put on the full armor of God and allow the Holy Spirit to have His way that His fruit might be manifested in and through us. You need to go into it with your eyes open. You want to do all you can to keep a positive attitude and see God’s hand in all the details. You need to quickly deal with all negative feelings, committing yourself to your sovereign heavenly Father.

In assuming the responsibility of being a caregiver, we need to keep in mind the following:

  1. We need to become educated: Do the research, find the information you need. There are many books and web sites that have lots of information.
  2. Make the decision with the help of others. Talk it over with your spouse, children, siblings, friends. Not everyone is made up the same. We each face situations differently. Consider and discuss the impact this will create on anyone involved – your parents, your spouse, and your children (particularly if they are young). Consider both the benefits and the sacrifices (although in the long run you may find that the sacrifices turn into blessings).
  3. Acknowledge that this will be physically and emotionally demanding. God is our source of strength. God is bigger than our emotions. You may find you can do more than you every thought possible. But be vigilant for signs of physical and emotional drain. There are two simple “tests” to take: a scale to evaluate your level of caregiving and a caregiver stress test. You’ll find these at Part 3 of Caring For the Caregiver of The Caregiver’s Handbook developed by Dr. Robert S. Stall.

Once in the situation acknowledge what your own needs are and make plans to meet them

  1. Set limits on what you can and cannot do. Be realistic and quick to let others know this. Know your limit and look for signs that let you know you are doing to much.
  2. Avoid the “I can do it myself” attitude. Acknowledge you cannot do this alone. Ask for help. Delegate various tasks. Look to other family, friends, neighbors, church members, volunteers, paid help. Another family member could care for the parent for a week or two. Some families find it works well to share responsibility with the parent living with one family for several months and then another. If your parent is living with you full time, consider adult day care.
  3. Plan to take a break and do something for you – every day even if just a half an hour, once a week for a longer time. When caregiving is a long-term commitment, plan to periodically take at least a week off. You can hire an aide to come in for a couple of hours one day a week. Sign up to go to a health club, get a massage. Have a friend come over for a visit.
  4. Eat well, drink plenty of water, exercise.
  5. Find a support group or another caregiver facing similar challenges you can share with.
  6. Caregiving is constantly changing and the unexpected often happens. Include change in your plan and have a plan for the unexpected. Consider some of the possibilities of what might happen. The need of the parent may be beyond the care you can provide. You might become ill.
  7. Being the main caregiver will not last forever. Remember that it is a wonderful investment. In an article on caregiving in AARP magazine Susan Jordan shared, “I look in the mirror and I can see that I am really tired some days.” But, she adds, “I had a wonderful childhood, thanks to my mom. I’m happy to do this for her. I feel that I’m the one receiving the blessings.”
  8. Give thanks. Attitude greatly effects everything. The apostle Paul faced a lot of hard things in his life. In letters he wrote the following and God’s given these words to us:
    • Thess 5.18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
    • Eph 5.20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
    • Phil 4.6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

This book was recently recommended to me by a fellow caregiver. She shared “have been getting encouragement and inspiration from PRECIOUS LORD, TAKE MY HAND by Shelly Beach–great devotional book.” Check it out!

The following are some things shared by other caregivers when asked: What are some things you’ve done for yourself?

  • In making the decision, we discussed it as a family. It helped to know I had their support and we were united in the decision for me to be away from home for that period of time.
  • I shared my need and someone offered to provide care so we could attend an event.
  • I was feeling I couldn’t do it all, so called my sister and she came immediately.
  • I periodically go for a massage.
  • My brother came to help so I could return to be with my family in another state for a time.
  • My husband and I decided to send Mom to an adult day care and found a place we are very happy with.
  • While preparing a meal, I listened to an audio book. It was a wonderful break to be transported to another place.
  • Getting time to read the Bible was a challenge so someone gave me an audio copy to listen to.
  • I joined a caregiver support group where I found others who quickly could identify with what I was experiencing.
  • I was encouraged by verses of Scripture I’d memorized.
  • I chose to take a long soak in a warm tub every couple of days.
  • We tried to cook simple but nutritious meals.
  • When my dad was on Hospice, we hired someone to be with him during the night so we could get our rest. We all benefited from getting a good night of rest.
  • My great uncle who was living with us stayed at a nursing home while we attended our son’s wedding.
  • My sister and I share the responsibility for my dad. He is with her two months and then with me two months. It works for us.

What has worked for you? Feel free to share your story and suggestions in the comments about how you have cared for the yourself — the caregiver!


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