Caregivers of Disabled Family Members
Are you caring for disabled family members? Caregivers spend a lot of their time caring for others, and often end up neglecting themselves in the process. A caregiver may work part-time or full-time caring for an individual in their own family, depending on whether that person is a parent, spouse or child. While caring for others may seem like smooth-sailing for some, many caregivers feel stressed out, alienated or lack the tools they need to give their charges the best care possible.
Caring for YOU
In order to be the best caregiver possible, you need to take care of yourself first. It is admirable to put others first, but you can’t perform to the best of your abilities if other aspects of your life are falling by the wayside. If you haven’t taken stock of your personal life lately, consider the following:
- When is the last time you had a physical? Being a caregiver can add stress, as well as increase blood pressure and for some, packing on the pounds. You can't take care of others if you let yourself go.
- What have you done for yourself lately? Ignoring your own needs and desires can create feelings of resentment, even if you’re not aware of them. Make time to do something that you love at least once a week, whether it is working in your garden, reading a great book or attending an event with friends.
- Have you neglected your friends? Friends can help round out your support network, so they shouldn’t be neglected when you have care giving responsibilities. Drop them a note, write to them via email or call them on the phone. Keep in touch so you have a sounding board when things get rough or you simply need to have an adult conversation.
- How is your family doing? It is natural to want to help a disabled family member, especially if you are caring for an elderly parent. However, it is important to examine your relationship with other family members who may need you just as much. Relationships can suffer when you neglect your relationship with a spouse, young children or teens. Be sure to spend time with the other individuals in your immediate family, even if you have to schedule it. Don’t let your family become unglued due to the demands of care giving.
Ask for Help When Needed
Many people feel that no one can care for someone in their family like they can. However, there are other people who may be willing to step in if you’d only you’d share the burden. In order to get help though you have to be open to asking for help. Being stoic and behaving as if you can handle anything may only hurt you when the stress of care giving becomes too much.
There are many organizations and individuals that you can turn to when you need a break from the job duties of care giving:
- Are there adult siblings in your family that could assist you? Other family members are often willing to assist if only you’d ask for their assistance. Some may be hanging back instead of stepping in so that they don’t “step on your toes.”
- Have you tapped local resources? Places to find support and assistance include your local house of worship, local counseling centers and in some cases, where you work.
- Have you asked for help from the disabled person’s physician? This may be one of the best resources for help. Their physician is usually aware of support groups and resources that are available to individuals needing assistance. Don’t wait for them to come to you and ask if you need assistance - be proactive and ask.
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