November is National Family Caregivers Month in the United States, and we want to take this opportunity to give a warm shout out to all the caregivers out there! Caregiving is a labor of love, and it is exhausting both physically and emotionally. You make a difference in peoples’ lives, and we want you to know that you matter. This month is to honor you and help bring you support and resources in your caregiving endeavor. It is very easy for caregivers to put themselves last and to think of everyone else first. But to be the best caregiver you can be, you have to take care of yourself as well. So, in today’s blog, we are going to share with you five tips to help you as a family caregiver. If you’d like to make your job just a little better and maybe a little easier, keep reading this blog to find out how.
1) Find a Tribe.
When you are a family caregiver, it is very important for you to seek support from other caregivers. Nobody understands exactly what you’re going through like another caregiver. They can help you be more prepared and capable in facing the challenges that you have, because they have been through them too and can offer insight on how to deal with them positively. Sometimes, it’s just good to be able to talk to someone who understands exactly how you’re feeling, and can empathize with how much it hurts, rather than telling you everything is going to be OK. The main thing is, you don’t have to do this alone. There are resources available and people out there that can help you on this difficult journey.
2) Don’t Neglect Yourself
One of the most common patterns among caregivers is taking care of everyone else first. While it totally makes sense that a caregiver would have that heart, it is actually backwards when it comes to reality. You’re not able to help anyone else unless you take care of yourself first. The better you take care of yourself, the better you will be able to help others. It is counterintuitive, but most caregivers know it’s the truth, it is just hard to practice. That means you will have to have a strong mindset to accomplish this goal, but if you do, it will help you be the best caregiver you can be. That means making sure you get enough sleep, taking naps, going for walks, exercising, taking respite breaks, eating right, etc. are all part of your “duties” as a caregiver.
3) Accept and Direct Help
People who are used to doing the caregiving tend to be the last ones to ask for help themselves. Even when someone offers help it is easy for a caregiver to not really accept that invitation for what it is. People want to help, but they don’t necessarily know how. So, when you notice people are trying to help, or asking how they can help, or telling you to let them know if there’s something they can do, don’t disregard it as superficial, and don’t feel like you just have to accept whatever help they give. If they want to help, let them know the best ways to do it if there are specific things you know you need help with. If you’re too overwhelmed to even know what will help, that’s OK. You can say that too. More than anything, allow yourself to be open and accepting of the help that people offer. You need and deserve help as much as the person you’re caring for. So, accept the help, direct the help, and take in the love that inspires people to offer it and recognize that they care.
4) Organize and Communicate
During this time, it is likely you will be dealing with more doctor visits, doctors reports, bills, tests, etc. than you ever have before. It may be an entirely new area to navigate and can be overwhelming for many. Being organized and focused on communication can really help in that situation. Learning how to communicate with doctors and nurses so you understand what is happening and what you need to do will make things much less stressful. Having an assertive mindset where you know it’s OK to ask questions is also good. Staying organized and keeping all of your medical information in one place and up to date will go a long way in reducing stress and frustration. It is important to make sure you have all the relevant legal documents in order as well. It also helps to keep a journal so that you can keep track of everything that is happening all in one place so it’s easy to refer to whenever you need it.
5) Mind Your Mindset
Mindset can make you or break you when you are in the position of being a caregiver for someone you love. Some of these overlap with the first four tips but knowing that you have to take care of yourself and understanding that you need and deserve help as much as the person you are helping is critical. Being self-aware and watching out for signs of depression and overwhelm, making sure that you are taking breaks, scheduling naps, and getting respite care, are all necessary elements of being a caregiver. Once again, this is where having a tribe of other caregivers can be very helpful in controlling your mindset and making sure you aren’t contributing to self-defeating thoughts or attitudes.
We are on Your Team at COMC!
At Central Ozarks Medical Center, the doctors and nurses at our health clinics in mid-Missouri understand what you are going through. We are here to help you and your loved one, and we never want you to feel like you are in this on your own. We are not only here to provide excellent medical care, but we also provide mental and behavioral health services in Central Missouri and we have the resources to help you on this journey. As we recognize family caregivers on a national level this month, we just want you to know we are thinking about you, we are here for you, and we appreciate the role you play in providing care for those in need in our communities. Thank you for what you do! Please keep in touch with us and consider following us on social media to hear more tips and helpful information regarding healthcare in the Lake of the Ozarks area on a regular basis.
Follow along with our blogs to get more health and lifestyle pointers to keep you out of our office more than once a year!
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