Family caregivers can’t do it alone

Generally speaking, when the term “family caregiver” comes up most people think about elderly who need help at end of life. But care giving isn’t limited to end of life issues.

Think about the sandwich generation, the women and men who are taking care of elderly loved ones and raising a family. These are the people who may have to cut hours of availability for work outside the home, take a leave of absence or quit their jobs so they can take care of the people they love. Theirs is a 24/7/365, around the clock balancing act.

The Caregiver Action Network (formerly known as National Family Caregivers Association) promotes National Family Caregivers Month every November. This year the theme is “Caring Around the Clock.” The awareness month effort is intended to raise awareness of family caregiver issues, recognizing the efforts of family caregivers, educate caregivers about self-identification and increase support for family caregivers.

Many times a caregiver complains that there isn’t enough help, enough understanding with what they are dealing with, not enough hours in the day to get everything done. The kids need healthy meals – everyone does. The house needs cleaned, there are dance lessons, sports practices, job demands, spouse care, elderly parents who need assistance. And then an emergency room visit happens in the middle of the night, superstore runs in the middle of the night to take care of last minute things the children forgot to mention or Mom forgot about in the melee of everything else going on in her life.

Caregiving is demanding, and very deserving of acknowledgement and appreciation. It also means that the caregiver may be able to use some tips to help them get the assistance they truly need. It’s not that they aren’t capable. It’s that there are too many things on their to-do lists and they have the same number of hours each day that everyone else has.

First, caregivers need to take care of themselves because if they can’t take care of the people they feel responsible for, what is going to happen? Support can be found in keeping in contact with other caregivers. When someone offers help, accept the offers for specific things that you need help for. If you aren’t certain what you need help to do, make lists. Take the time to sit down and list all the things you have to do. Then prioritize those things – what do you feel that you have to do, what do you enjoy doing, and what do you hate doing. Make another list of the things you worry about. Review your lists a couple of times to make sure you have thought all of it through and you’re satisfied. The objective is to make life easier for you and your loved one.

The list gives you power. When you show the list to others, they will be able to see everything that needs to be taken care of and that it is unrealistic for you to do everything alone. They will see that you aren’t just complaining. Even if they can’t help you physically, they may be able to point you in the direction of someone who can help.

Be proactive. Educate yourself on the condition so you are prepared to talk to your physician effectively. You can learn how to do this at www.caregiveraction.org/resources/how-talk-your-doctor.

The bottom line is that the caregiver’s well being is connected to the well being of the people she or he is caring for. Neither of them can go it alone for the long term.

Addiction has no address, but Family Recovery Center does. For more information about the education, prevention and treatment programs for substance abuse and related behavioral issues, contact the agency at 964 N. Market St., Lisbon; phone, 330-424-1468; or e-mail, info@familyrecovery.org. FRC is funded, in part, by United Way of Northern Columbiana County.

COMMENTS