Caring for a family member who has a disability or a chronic illness can be rewarding. But it’s also demanding. One of the keys to being a successful caregiver is to manage stress by seeking support and taking care of yourself.
Think about the kinds of caregiving tasks or situations that trigger stress for you. Then you can focus on one or two things you can do that will help the most to reduce stress. Here are some ideas:
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Know Your Limits
You can’t provide good care if you feel overwhelmed and stressed out. Make a list of all the tasks you need to do in a week, including dressing and bathing a loved one, rides, cooking, and household chores. Brainstorm which ones someone else might be able to do. Learn when to say no, and set boundaries so you can take care of your family — and yourself.
Ask for Help
Even a few hours “off duty” can help you recharge. Make a list of family, friends, or neighbors to call when you need a break. Insurance may pay for a home health aide. Adult day care centers can give you a breather while your loved one enjoys some social activity. Your local Area Agency on Aging can tell you where to find help. Hospice programs provide support for terminally ill people and their families.
Make It a Team Effort
Hold regular “family meetings” to discuss the latest medical news, daily caregiving needs, financial concerns, and your need for support. These meetings should include everyone who might be involved in caring for your loved one, including paid caregivers. Connect distant family members through a speaker phone or online video chat. Follow up with a written agreement and a calendar of tasks.