Caring for a sick loved one at home can quickly become a herculean task. Not only is there an increased demand on your time and energy, but your entire home routine becomes disrupted. In order to maintain your health, both physical and mental, planning and structure are your best friends. The following five tips may help you establish a caregiver’s routine that will meet your loved ones needs but not drain you.
1. The biggest issue of caregivers is that they become everything to everyone all of the time. In addition to the caregiver’s usual responsibilities, he or she now has the added responsibility of a loved one who may be totally dependent on him or her. The importance of adequate self-care cannot be overstressed for a caregiver.
Make sure that when you are planning the day for the patient that you plan time for yourself during the course of the day. It doesn’t have to be a substantial chunk of time, but a daily half-hour or hour of uninterrupted time can prevent burnout and exhaustion. Devote that time to yourself for an activity you enjoy and don’t accept interruptions. If you become ill, you will be of no use to your patient, yourself, or others.
2. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Too often, caregivers feel that they are the only ones who can adequately tend to their loved one; therefore, they soon become overloaded. This usually leads to physical and emotional illness, so don’t let that happen to you.
Arrange a support structure with friends and family members so that if your loved one has an appointment that conflicts with your schedule, for instance, that both can be accommodated. If possible, have a backup plan for your backup plan. Most communities have a variety of support organizations for caregivers, some at little or no cost to the recipient. Joining a therapy group for caregivers can also be beneficial.
3. Although disruption in your daily routine is inevitable, try to minimize it. Include the patient in family activities, such as mealtime and watching television, whenever possible, and encourage interaction between him or her and the rest of the family. Whether the loved one is ill or terminally ill, an atmosphere of love and compassion will dramatically increase the quality of life for all concerned.
4. If the loved one is terminally ill, ask questions about his or her early life and listen to the stories as he or she reminisces. This type of interaction can greatly enhance the quality of life for both you and the patient. Don’t be afraid to discuss death and dying if the subject arises. Often, the terminally ill patient is more comfortable with the topic than others are.
5. Be sure that all legal documents are completed and accurate. Although this may be unpleasant, it is necessary. Here is a convenient organizer, provided by the National Caregivers Library.
Caregiving is one of the most difficult jobs you can have. Give yourself credit for embarking on this task and as much as possible, enjoy the journey. It is difficult to watch a loved one in his or her final stage of life, but it can become a treasured memory.