Caregivers are truly the unsung heroes of patient recovery. According to the Family Caregiver Alliance, family caregivers provide up to 80 percent of long-term care in the U.S. today. These devoted family members take on a huge portion of the burden in an effort to help medical providers make their loved ones whole again. As most caregivers will admit, it’s an extremely rewarding but incredibly challenging role.
Here are a few tips on how caregivers can help their loved ones while also focusing on their own well-being to make sure that they stay healthy and effective.
What Can Caregivers Do To Help Their Loved Ones?
Caregivers take on a range of roles depending on their loved one’s condition and non-family support network. Caregiving doesn’t necessarily mean living in the same home as the patient or providing round the clock care. However, most caregivers do live near the patient they are caring for. Here are some of the important roles – from more intensive to more day-to-day – that caregivers take on, according to the FCA:
- Helping with medications, injections, physical therapy and other medical needs.
- Helping the patient get into and out of bed or move around the house.
- Helping with showering, dressing and toileting.
- Making appointments and driving to doctor’s visits and the pharmacy.
- Communicating with doctors and case managers to help organize the patient’s care.
- Being on-call for crises – being the person your loved one calls when they are concerned or feeling unwell.
- Buying groceries and taking care of daily activities like cleaning, laundry and errands.
What Are Common Injuries Or Conditions That Caregivers Help With?
Some of the most common conditions requiring support for family caregivers include:
- Traumatic Brain Injury
- Post-Surgical Recovery
- Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia
- Neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s and ALS
- Chronic illness like COPD or Congestive Heart Failure
Caregiving can range from temporary help as a patient recovers from a joint replacement surgery to more long-term care for stroke survivors, dementia patients and loved ones with other chronic illnesses. As FCA experts point out, because of the need for 24/7 supervision, caregiving for a patient with dementia or other cognitive issues can be even more challenging than caring for a loved one with a physical impairment or injury.
How Can I Best Help My Sick or Injured Loved One?
Here are some tips for proving the best care for your loved one, with suggestions from FCA experts and insight from Evergreen’s outstanding team:
- Learn about your loved one’s diagnosis or injury: do your homework and don’t be afraid to bring your questions to your loved one’s medical team. In the case of an injury or stroke, learn about the expected recovery time and how physical therapy can help.
- Find out about resources available in your community. In many cases this can mean finding the right rehabilitation facility for outpatient or inpatient care for your loved one.
- Help your loved one get organized, including helping manage their medications and appointment calendar.
- Bring other family members on board to discuss the care needed and division of responsibilities. Bring faraway siblings into the picture and find ways that they can support caregiving siblings who live closer to the patient.
- Talk with your loved one about their financial status and concerns and help them get a handle on the financial impact of their condition. Help them keep up with bills and bank statements to make sure important payments and deadlines are met.
- Take care of yourself to avoid burnout and use resources available in your community to get support.
How Can I Stay Healthy As A Caregiver?
As caregivers attempt to balance caring for a loved one with their own lives and responsibilities, they can set themselves up for physical or mental illness or injury if they don’t take care of themselves. Many caregivers, especially women, find themselves in the increasingly common sandwich generation, caring for school-aged or young children while also caregiving for aging parents. This can create lots of stress and can lead to chronic pain, depression and injury, according to the FCA.
Here are some tips to help caregivers stay healthy:
- Consider professional rehabilitation at an inpatient or outpatient level if the burden of in-home caregiving becomes too great.
- Explore options for in-home assistance, from skilled nursing help to personal care.
- Look into respite care options in your community, including adult daycare.
- Join a support group for caregivers for your loved one’s specific diagnosis. Being able to share concerns with others experiencing the same journey can be valuable for mental health and create an important sense of connection.
- Make time to engage in activities that are meaningful to you and offer a sense of release. Physical activity is an important stress reliever so find time to exercise.
Caregiving is a tough role under any circumstances, but with basic self-care and a good support-team in place, you can help your loved one recover without doing damage to your own health and well-being. Don’t be afraid to reach out to find help and support. You’ll be a better caregiver and take care of yourself at the same time. For more information, schedule a visit to see how Evergreen Health and Rehab can help you or your loved one meet short or long-term needs.