For most of us who are full or part time caregivers the role may have come on subtly.
My mother was diagnosed with a chronic illness 46 years ago. In the beginning for our entire family the change was to be more mindful of her painful hands, knees and feet. To create the space for her to move as easily as possible through the house and through the world. And trying to; in whatever small way, offer her some relief from her pain.
Over the years her disease and some of the treatments took their inevitable toll. We found ourselves doing more and more as she could do less and less.
Remarkably it wasn't until my parents were nearly 80 that I realized my father had become a full time caregiver. My mother was no longer driving, couldn't go out alone, was walking (just barely) with a walker, and was no longer able to participate in any of the household chores.
This was a lot for my Dad, but seemed to work, until one winter he got a resistant pneumonia and needed to rest and rest to regain his health.
If you are a caregiver don't wait until you get sick to get some assistance:
According to the National Institute of Aging at the National Institute of Health here are some important signs that it is time for caregiver support:
- Exhaustion - recognize when you are sleep deprived
- Frustration - anger or irritability at anyone and everyone
- Worry or Anxiety - this is tough, because there is always worry for caregivers try to be aware of any change in your thinking
- Feeling guilt that you are not doing enough
Taking care of yourself is the most important ( and possibly the hardest) thing you can do as a caregiver.
- Make arrangements for someone to give you a break, even a brief one can make a difference
- Eat well, exercise and sleep (the trinity of care for the carer)
- Go out and play - see friends, take a walk, enjoy something meaningful to you
These all seem simple and obvious until you are caring for someone else who needs you 24/7 whose needs supersede your own: then these very simple ideas, become essential tools for the wellbeing of caregiver and the cared for.
Take a moment, put your feet up!