AARP offers tips for caregivers
- Take Care of Your Health -- Eat nutritious meals; don't give in to stress-driven urges for sweets or overindulge in alcohol. Get enough sleep; if you are awakened at night, try napping during the day to make up your sleep. Exercise regularly, even if it means finding someone else to provide care while you walk or go to exercise class. Get regular medical checkups; if you have any symptoms of depression (extreme sadness, trouble concentrating, apathy, hopelessness, thoughts about death) see a doctor. Depression is an illness that can, and must, be treated.
- Involve Others -- Make up a list of tasks you need help with and ask friends, neighbors and other family members if they could contribute some time to helping out. Tasks could include household chores, home repair or maintenance, driving, paying bills, finding information on services you need, or simply providing a break by staying with your aging relative while you get away for awhile.
- Maintain Social Contacts -- Isolation increases stress, while having fun, laughing, and focusing on something besides your problems can help you keep your emotional balance.
- Get Help From Community Services and Organizations -- Consider a geriatric care manager to coordinate all aspects of your parent's care. Support could include home health aides, shopping assistants, a homemaker or someone to do home repairs, meal services, information and referral programs, volunteers or staff from faith-based organizations who could visit or help with driving. Consider respite care for some time off. Adult day centers, which usually operate five days a week during business hours, provide care to people in a group setting -- including health monitoring, transportation, nursing care and therapeutic recreation.
- Talk About It -- Research suggests that keeping your feelings bottled up can harm your immune system and lead to physical illness. Talk to friends and family about your feelings. Share experiences with co-workers in similar situations. See a professional counselor. Join a caregiver support group to share emotions and experiences, see and give advice, and exchange practical information with your peers.
- Deal Constructively with Negative Feelings -- When feeling resentful, think about how to change things. Recognize the anger-guilt-anger cycle, and stop it immediately by forgiving yourself for being angry. Then distance yourself from the situation, figure out what caused the anger, and decide how you can respond more constructively the next time. Hold a family meeting to resolve conflicts with siblings and other relatives. And recognize your accomplishments as a caregiver instead of dwelling on your shortcomings.