Becoming a caregiver is not something that comes naturally to everyone. The timing in the caregiver’s life might not be optimal. Over the years we have seen people who could never have imagined themselves as caregivers do an outstanding job caring for their loved ones. One patient in particular had a rocky course, his wife was his caregiver. After a long difficult hospitalization and rehab stay, they went home. Three months later, walking down the corridor in the hospital they spotted me. I recognized him immediately- he looked well, said he felt well and was doing better than he could have imagined. His wife had lost weight, looked tired, and had aged since the hospitalization and recovery. It was clear when talking with them that she had given her all for her husband to get better, but had not taken care of herself. What would help her cope with being a caregiver? What resources are available?
One of the most important things that a caregiver needs to know is that they are not alone. Help and support are available. It is not a sign of weakness that you take care of yourself. According to the web site Family Caregiver Alliance- www.caregiver.org – “Caregiving can also result in feeling a loss of self identity, lower levels of self-esteem, constant worry, or feelings of uncertainty. Caregivers have less self-acceptance and feel less effective and less in control of their lives than non-caregivers.”
There are many positive benefits of being a caretaker. Caregivers need to realize that this is not something that one person can do effectively over the long-term, without support and taking time for themselves.
A suggestion for a caregiver who is feeling alone or needs some support is to reach out. Support groups are available online. Sometimes just having a place to communicate with others who are going through similar experiences is helpful. When friends and family offer to help, take them up on their offer and give yourself a break. Remember that you need to be healthy and strong physically and emotionally to continue to take the best care of your loved one.
– Ellie Ericson