Caregivers Need Care Too

Dec 13th, 2010 | By Sharon Shaw Elrod MSW EdD | Category: Lifestyle, Health & Fitness

More senior citizens find themselves providing care to loved ones in our world today.  Caregiving may be for a dying parent or friend.  Or it may be for someone who is disabled.  Temporary caregiving is necessary for someone recuperating from surgery or an injury.  Whatever the circumstance, senior caregivers are called upon because we are available (retirement does that!) and because we generally are caring people who want to help others.

In the process of caring for others, we may ignore our own needs, or we may not.  But if we do, there are some things we need to remind ourselves and others who are concerned for us.  Let’s take a look at a list of eight:

  1. We need friends who know what we are doing, who know what time and energy is required of us, and who will be there when we need to refill our bucket.  Good trusted friends will do that.  Be sure you choose the ones who provide uplifting responses, not the ones who respond negatively.
  2. Faith in a higher power and the ability to communicate with that power is always helpful.  Some of us pray to God, some of us meditate and listen for wisdom and guidance, others have their own way of expressing a relationship with the creative force in our universe.  Whatever your choice, this is a time when you need that power in your life.
  3. Escape.  Caregivers need a place to which we can escape.  We need to know we can go somewhere and be away from the minute-to-minute responsibility caregiving often requires.  We need a place that offers comfort and serenity.  It may be a walk in the woods or sitting on a rooftop or a quiet room with calming music.  That place will differ with each of us, but what is important is that we can identify where it is.
  4. Whatever calms your spirit when you cannot escape.   Again we need to recognize individual differences.  For some it is music; for others, quiet time in a corner; still for others, reading or singing or meditation.  I recently had opportunity to teach my cousin, recuperating from surgery in the hospital, how to deep, slow breathing to manage his anxiety.  He learned it quickly, and was able to bring his blood pressure down from 159/102 to 123/81.  Immediately.  With just five deep, slow breaths.  Deep breathing may be the answer for some.
  5. Communication.  We need a way to communicate with the outside world.  When my hospice-expert-sister needs to let us know what is happening with our elderly father in declining health, she sends an email.  When it is urgent, she does a conference call on the telephone.  Other times, she calls us individually.  I keep my cell phone on me 24/7.  Again, each caregiver needs to identify what means of communication works best for her/his situation, and then get the necessary technology.
  6. Playing table games with friends.  Many of us seniors grew up playing table games because we did not have television to steal our time.  A return to much-loved table games may be an answer for temporary diversion that senior caregivers need.  Whether it’s Canasta or Sorry or Scrabble or the new rage, Rummikub, inviting friends in to play a table game can be both fun and relaxing.
  7. We need to remember we need our sleep.  Some caregivers find sleeping difficult and if so, that’s the time to go to your primary care physician and have a talk about a sleep aid–temporarily.  Meditation and slow deep breathing also help.
  8.  Good nutrition is essential to getting through a caregiving experience.  Junk food, high sugar content and excessive caffeine will only create reactions in your body that will be difficult to manage.  Fruit, veggies and nutritional snacks will keep you feeling good, with energy to deal with your caregiving duties.

This is just a start.  SCJ will likely add to this list, because we seniors will find ourselves in caregiving roles frequently.



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