I am a nurse and my training has taught me to assess, plan, implement and evaluate whatever program I start. So, I initiated a caregivers support group at my church this spring after hearing members complain that they were feeling the stress of caring for elderly parents while at the same time raising children.
Spouses who become caregivers overnight when illness or injury impairs their loved one also feel the pressure from their new role. Those who work as caregivers at their jobs have added stress due to the ongoing responsibilities of taking care of people professionally, while at the same time providing care for people in their personal lives.
The first response to the support group I facilitate was very positive. There was a good mix of people who attended and all those who participated expressed their thanks for a safe place to share their stories and feelings with others dealing with similar issues.
However, after a few months, attendance began to dwindle, which left me wondering what the reason or reasons might be.
Theories include that caregivers need a place to have their loved one cared for if they are going to take time for themselves. Many support groups are located at care facilities that can offer respite care for the loved one so their physical needs are met while the emotional needs of the caregiver are discussed. My group was not set up to provide respite care, it just provides a place for the caregiver to gather with other caregivers.
Another theory is the challenge about what time and day of the week is best and the never-ending struggle to choose the right one.
Some personality types are stoic, feeling inferior or weak if they reach out for support so they say, “That’s not for me, and I don’t need that group!”
I understand the reasons, I know the challenges of facilitating any support group, but this is one thing I know as a professional and as a daughter, wife, mother and friend: Each and every time I have been in a caregiver role, it is challenging and difficult.
I’m not saying that blessings are not a part of the journey, or that moments of clarity are nonexistent, but physically, emotionally and spiritually I feel tired and support is the only way I can get through it!
Here are some of my strategies for helping myself:
- SEEK support – this can be in the form of a structured group or a list of friends and family who will accept your phone calls (even in the middle of the night) and offer respite care to your loved one if needed.
- THINK about self-care techniques before you find yourself in crisis – what form of exercise helps you relax? Is there music on your iPad or phone that you find calming? Do you own meditation tapes or have a daily devotional book that allows for short, quiet times of relaxation?
- STOP thinking that you are the only one who can give care to your loved one or do the job correctly. This is not true and only leads to isolation and exhaustion. Share the burden with siblings, hire services to help if you can financially do so, and learn to accept that you have limitations.
- Resources come in the form of community service organizations both locally and nationally, faith-based communities and online resources that focus on caregiver issues – don’t take this on alone, contact them!
Some of the resources I have shared with others and I have found helpful are:
- www.caregiver.com – they offer a resource entitled, “A Caregiver’s Bill of Rights” and provide a weekly newsletter. Call 1-800-829-2734.
- www.Caring.com – they offer articles on a multiple topics including compassion fatigue. Call 1-800-952-6650.
- www.caregiversupportnetwork.org – they have local and national resources available. Call 1-800-449-4481.
- www.Agingcare.com – connects caregivers and provides a free “Caregiver’s Survival Guide.” Contact them M-F 9-5 at 1-239-594-3222.
- If you are the caregiver for a person who is suffering from a chronic illness or specific disease, contact the national organization which will offer many resources as well.
These are just a few of the many ways to find support during the difficult job of caregiving. Please remember that self-care is the first step in assuring that YOU will be fit for this job as it requires stamina and a commitment to keep your body-mind and spirit strong.
How have you gathered support in your role as caregiver?
What resources would you recommend?