- Be informed. Learn everything you can about your loved one’s diagnosis so that you can be prepared and ready with what to expect. You can talk to the doctor (with your loved one’s permission), and they should be able to offer ideas and resources for finding support. Investigating what community resources are available to you now, while you have the energy and momentum to do so, will help you later on when you’re in the thick of things. Depending on where you live, there could be organizations that offer help with everything from transportation, free respite, caregiver classes and workshops, food support, and medical equipment lending.
- Connect with others who are going through the same thing you are. You could join a support group either online or in person, depending on what’s available and what works best for you. Having a safe space to share your experiences and challenges while hearing about what others are also going through will help reinforce that you are not alone.
- Connect and talk with others. Period. It can be anyone: your neighbor, a pastor or church member, a family member… for you to be healthy and be able to give care to your loved one, you need to feel emotionally connected and nourished as well. Don’t let the stress of caregiving isolate you. They may not understand exactly what you’re going through – but they want to.
- Accept help from those around you. Too often, when a friend asks a caregiver if they need anything, the answer they get is no. In reality, the answer should be “Yes! I need: a hot meal; a prescription filled; someone to walk my dog; someone to pick ___ up from the store from me; etc.” And most importantly, don’t be afraid to ASK for help when you need it.
- Keep up with your own health. Make your own check-ups, screenings, and medications a priority. It is easy to let these fall to the wayside when you have someone else to worry about. But taking care of yourself sets a good example for your loved one, and it gives you the chance to be as healthy and whole as possible.
- Take care of yourself physically every day. Take a few moments every day to take care of yourself physically – brush your hair, take a good hot shower, or give yourself a few minutes to stretch. These things will allow your body to feel better, and every little moment that helps reduce your stress is one worth taking.
- Know yourself, and check in with yourself . You are no good to your loved one if you are burned out. It is okay to acknowledge your limits. You do not have to be perfect to be a caregiver. If you reach a point where you are struggling and need more assistance or help, don’t be afraid to turn to a professional to help you sort out your feelings and your options.
For caregivers in the Austin and Central Texas area, AGE of Central Texas would be honored to be your resource for support and information on all things related to caring for your loved one. AGE offers caregiver seminars, a support group for caregivers, free classes through CaregiverU, as well as the option to receive personalized assistance and consultation on caregiving or aging issues either in person, on the phone, or via email. For assistance contact Bruce Kravitz, Program Director of Caregiver Education, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 512.451.4611 ext. 236.
If you want to help support older adults and those who care for them by contributing to AGE, please click here. You can also find us at 3710 Cedar St # 2 Austin, TX 78705, or feel free to reach us at www.ageofaustin.org or 512.451.4611.