Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Caregiving

I think the role of 'caregiver' in a family can be one of the most difficult to have. Often people go from being the 'child' of their parent to seemingly suddenly, becoming their 'parent'. The role reversal in itself is a huge thing to come to terms with for so many. For many, its a role that a person is 'thrust' into rather than knowingly eased into. Often there is no time to look for an 'instruction manual' on how to do this right. It's easy to become overwhelmed and over time experience burnout and in extreme cases, the caregiver themselves can experience physical and mental health issues.

Over the years, working with caregivers, there are a few things I have come to observe which might assist caregivers/future caregivers who are reading this blog. Firstly, communication is key. Caregivers need to be good at communicating to medical staff, support workers, family and friends. You need to be able to ask questions and let people know what is happening with you and your loved one. For some it takes the form of phone or in person contact, for others, a communication book works, especially when there are other caregivers who you may not see daily. Secondly, education is important. You need to ensure you know everything you can on the particular issues and illnesses impacting your loved one & the resources out there to assist you. Someone once told me that fear comes from not knowing. An incredible relief can be had when you know exactly what you are dealing with. Thirdly, when you take this on, you have to be prepared to share the responsibility in caring for that person with others - be it family members, friends or paid support workers. To ensure that burnout doesn't happen you have to learn to prioritize, stress manage and look after yourself. If you need help for yourself, ask for it. If you need a break, take it. In order to give care to someone else, you have to remain healthy and give care to yourself.

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