'Am I a Caregiver?'
You are if you're caring for a loved one with a blood cancer who can no longer manage on his or her own. You are if you're helping your loved one with daily needs, such as bathing or dressing, balancing the checkbook and taking him or her to the doctor's office or the grocery store. You may be a son or a daughter, a husband or a wife, an in-law, a neighbor or a close friend. You may live together or next door, across the state or across the country.
If you're providing regular assistance, you are a caregiver.
Follow these suggestions so you don't feel overwhelmed and can be at your best to help your loved one:
- Acknowledge that an adult loved one has the right to make decisions about his or her life.
Respect that right unless your loved one is no longer capable of making decisions or could put others in danger through his or her behavior.
- Whenever possible, offer choices.
The ability to make choices is a basic freedom, so provide choices whenever possible - from where to live to which cereal to eat at breakfast to what to wear. Choices enable us to express ourselves. As your loved one's options become more limited, through health losses, financial constraints or social losses, you have to work harder to provide choices.
- Do only those things your loved one can't do.
If your loved one is still capable of performing certain activities, such as paying bills or cooking meals, encourage him or her to do so. Helping your loved one maintain a feeling of independence will make him or her feel better about being in a care-receiving situation.
- Be sure to do what you promise to do.
Many care recipients find it emotionally difficult to depend on others, and many worry about being a burden. With all these mixed feelings, your loved one needs to be able to rely on you. Do what you promise. Remember that your loved one needs you, even if he or she doesn't say so.
- Take care of yourself.
Caregivers often exhaust themselves by trying to handle caregiving responsibilities on top of normal daily routines. Providing care for a loved one while holding down a job can lead to exhaustion. If you do become exhausted, you're more likely to make bad decisions or to take out your frustrations on your loved one. Take care of yourself: Take time out to do things you enjoy even if it means saying no to your loved one. Caregivers who refresh themselves can be there for the long haul. Ask your loved one's doctor to suggest local resources such as adult day care services that might give you some relief from responsibilities that may feel overwhelming.
- Remember that your family is your first resource.
There can be deep emotional currents when a loved one becomes ill. Some family members will want to do everything, while others will do very little unless they're asked. Yet, spouses, brothers and sisters, children and other relatives can do much to ease your caregiving burden. Don't be afraid to reach out to them for help.