According to the National Family Caregivers Association , more than 65 million people provide care for a chronically ill, disabled or aged family member or friend during any given year. These individuals spend an average of 20 hours per week providing care for their loved one. There's no doubt that caring for others is a fulfilling task, but there are times when it can be a little challenging as well.
If you are a caregiver, you know that every day isn't going to be filled with sunshine and rainbows. If you're new to caregiving, some of the challenges might be a bit overwhelming, but you have to remain calm, and remember that your loved one is not only dealing with the daily stressors of life, they're also dealing with an illness or traumatic injury. They need your support and they need you to be the best caretaker you can possibly be.
There are some things you can do to help strengthen your skills and reduce stress levels. Here are some useful tips that might help you deal with caregiver stress:
1. Don't be afraid to ask for help.
If you're having a hard time keeping up with all of your caregiving duties, it's time to ask for help. Reach out to your family or friends of the family, and ask if they can assist from time-to-time. If they agree to help, let them select the task they want to do. This way, they won't feel like they're being mandated to help. One person might want to clean the house. Another person might prefer to do the grocery shopping. And when it comes to transportation, get in touch with a qualified organization that offers free wheelchair accessible van service. In the end, their help will take more off your plate.
2. Don't go on a guilt trip.
You might not make the bed like Martha Stewart or cook like Wolfgang Puck. That's okay. No one is a perfect caregiver. The sooner you realize that, the better. Don’t beat yourself up if you make a mistake, or if you need to ask for help.
3. Educate yourself.
If you want to pick up some new caregiving techniques, or just want to understand what your loved one is going through, take some classes. Organizations, such as the Red Cross, offer classes on caregiving and local hospitals may have classes about the illness or injury your loved one has. This can help you understand your loved one and their needs a little better.
4. Make your health a priority.
Staying healthy physically and mentally is the best thing you can do for yourself. Make it a priority to exercise and get adequate sleep. Also, make sure you get regular checkups. If you feel good, you'll be able to handle almost any situation.
5. Get support along the way.
A support group can be a great source for encouragement and advice from others in similar situations. They also give you a chance to make new friends. Check with your local hospital or area agencies to find out when their support groups meet. Also, take time out for yourself. Get out of the house. Take a walk. Go to dinner with your family or friends. You'll feel better as long as you keep active and maintain strong relationships with family and friends.
About the author: Chris Miller is the director of interactive marketing for The Mobility Resource, an online adaptive driving marketplace. His team helps people with disabilities regain driving freedom through vocational rehab, veteran affairs and several non-profit and private organizations.
A graduate of The University of Akron, Chris holds a bachelor of arts in public relations and consumer marketing. Prior to his time at The Mobility Resource, he was an account director at a Cleveland-based marketing communications firm. It was there he serviced accounts for major brands including; the Cleveland Wheelchair Cavaliers, Chevrolet, Reebok, ESPN and the U.S. Army. Chris has been published on disability.gov, ADAP.org and blog.NCPAD.org, to name a few.
Born with Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease, a form of muscular dystrophy, he is passionate about all things disability. In his free time, Chris enjoys spending time with his daughter while they dish up amazing meals for friends and family. Say hello to him on twitter @SweetMobility.