November is the time to acknowledge the contributions of family members who provide care for loved ones.
November is National Family Caregivers Month, a time to acknowledge all of those people who are giving loving care to those who are dealing with serious and chronic illness. It’s also a time to remember that taking care of yourself is a necessity, not a luxury. Without paying attention to your own emotional, spiritual and physical foundation, you will not have the reserve to be able to care for others.
So what can a caregiver do? Here are some suggestions:
- Take some time for yourself. It doesn’t have to be a big chunk of time, but identify what you need to find even a moment of joy and make time for that.
- Ask for help. No one can do this alone. Make a list and be specific in the type of help that you need. People respond to structure and tasks and typically want to help.
- Try to find a support group in your area, as finding out that others experience similar emotions and challenges can be helpful and validating. Hospitals often offer support groups and other resources.
- Even though there are many challenges in caregiving, take some time to find the benefits and joys. People report finding a level of purpose, meaning and relationship that they would not have had, if not for their caregiving role. Being able to find the positive in a difficult and challenging situation helps to change our internal thoughts and emotions and create a better felt sense of self.
- Recognize that some days will be harder than others. Remind yourself that you are doing the best in the moment with the resources you have.
- Understand that anger and frustration often accompany overwhelming demands. Find healthy ways to de-fuse that may work for you: meditation, exercise, going for a walk, read a book, go to a movie, talk to a friend, relative or therapist.
And if you are not a caregiver yourself, but know someone who is, honor them with a night out, a home-cooked meal, or a frequent phone call. Let them know you care and are there for them.
If you are a caregiver, give yourself a moment to know that what you are doing is challenging yet so very important and not to be borne entirely alone.
Thank A Caregiver Today!
The Family Caregiver Alliance has posted A Caregiver’s Bill of Rights. Well worth a read.
Laura Himmelstein is the Coordinator of the Caregiver Support Program and the Healing Touch Program at White Plains Hospital. To Find out more about Caregiver Support Program Services, call 914-681-2721.