3. Watch out for yourself
Even the best, most resilient caregivers can become overly stressed, depressed, or even physically ill. Realize that you may experience symptoms that you’re not used to, and you may have to be kinder to yourself than normal. Caregivers can experience:
- Fatigue and/or trouble sleeping
- Depression and/or hopelessness
- Physical sickness
- Lack of interest in personal hygiene/self-care
- Being unusually irritable/short-tempered
These are signs that you may need help. If you don’t feel confident checking in with your own well-being (or are too overwhelmed to do so) check out the Caregiver Distress Checklist if you need a second opinion. Know that it’s okay to feel overwhelmed and display some of the above symptoms. There are people who can help. Which brings us to our next point…
4. Know your resources
Whether you need major help or just a fellow caregiving to talk to, there are resources out there! Your loved one’s medical team is the best place to get tips on how to care for your charge, but there are specialized caregiver resources too! Try these tips:
- Check out a support group. The American Cancer Society has a great variety of tips and resources on how to cope. You can find a 24 support line, information about patient lodging, or even create your own website to build your own support community.
- Pick up a phone. Prefer to speak to someone in person? You can also call the American Cancer Society (click this link for the number) and someone will be able to connect you with the most appropriate resources.
- Read the caregiver resource guide.
- Read encouraging stories and share your own. These stories might just give you the boost you need!
- Look into respite care. Respite caregivers, either people you know or a professional service, can provide you with a break while still ensuring your loved one gets good care. You can check in with your loved one’s health insurance to see if they have recommendations, or do an online search in your area.
5. Accept Imperfection
Perfection is a lofty goal, and aiming for perfection is an excellent way to set yourself up for disappointment. Chances are that if you’re caring for someone through a long and difficult illness, you will come to a point where you feel you’ve failed in some way. Perhaps you spoke out of frustration, weren’t able to keep a good attitude, or even made a mistake with medication. Please, be kind to yourself. Apologize if you need to, and be sure to forgive yourself. Everyone makes mistakes, especially when we’re stressed and emotional. The bravest, and best, thing to do is to take a breath and keep moving forward.
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Katie Taylor started writing in 5th grade and hasn't stopped since. Her favorite place to pen a phrase is in front of her fireplace with a cup of tea, but she's been known to write in parking lots on the backs of old receipts if necessary. She and her husband live cozily in the Pacific Northwest enjoying rainy days and Netflix.