By Doug Peck
One of the hardest lessons I had to learn as a caregiver was that I could not provide all the hands-on care that was needed by myself. I had to learn that you are still a caregiver even when you get outside help. Your resolution this year: Don’t do it all alone. Ask for Help. Build a support network. I call it Team Caregiving and rather than diminishing my role, accepting helped make me a better caregiver. It can do the same for you.
It is a simple resolution but one that will have a powerful impact on you, the person receiving care and your family and friends. Forget being a martyr. Forget silently accepting all of the responsibilities and remember the real goal to give the best care possible to the one that needs it and you can only do that when you are taking care of yourself.
You are really not alone. Nearly one in three households in the U.S. are dealing with a caregiving situation and spend an average of 20 hours per week in caregiving related activities. And 70 percent of these caregivers are employed as well.
Taking care of an elderly parent or relative is a very stressful and complex situation — probably the most stressful and crisis filled situation that you ever had to face. With so much time and attention focused on the one receiving care, it tends to isolate the caregiver, cutting them off from their normal social network. That is never a good thing but can be particularly harmful when there is all the additional stress involved. A good place to start is with your local council on aging. They can understand your situation and know all the local resources that you will need.
Just like it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a large village to take care of the elderly. The village may start small but needs to expand and change as this type of caregiving can be a long process. It is not unusual for it to last 10 to 15 years and you need to prepare yourself.
But it is so much more than just giving you, the caregiver, a break or a respite. Let others do the routine things that often take up so much of your time. This gives you the opportunity to spend more quality time with the person you are caring for. You won’t always be on the run but can sit down and talk, read a book together or just have a cup of tea and relax. I know that may not sound possible right now, but it can be done with the right team and you owe it to yourself. Don’t miss the opportunity to spend quality time with the one you love.