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Who Needs Care First – You or Your Family Member?

When you’re involved in caring for a family member, the best thing you can do is to keep your own needs in perspective. So often we get involved in the daily routine that we forget the benefits of taking care of ourselves. You need to make time for what you enjoy so you have quality time to care for others. Deciding how to do that is not easy. Let’s discuss where you can start and what you can do to take care of your needs and your health.

First, look at the statistics. Research shows that stress is common among caregivers and extreme levels of stress can take as much as 10 years off a family caregiver’s life, according to Caregivers Action.

Typically, caregivers need to make adjustments to their work and home schedules. This can create emotional ups and downs when juggling activities or tending to your own emergencies. As this happens, your mood may swing from feeling you are doing a good thing for your family and then worrying how long the caregiving role will continue and what your future may hold.

When you’re in this cycle, it’s hard to stop. Take a few moments now to evaluate how you can stay in good health and provide the best situation for those in your care. Start by checking for warning signs of stress, such as poor eating habits or sleep problems and the irritability that goes with that. Are you having family disagreements, or poor communication with the person in your care?

Do you feel it’s more than you can handle right now? Perhaps improving communication with other family members will clear up issues. Or ask for help without feeling guilty. List a few simple tasks that others might do such as getting a few groceries or spending 15 or 30 minutes with your relative on a given day. Think about what other family members or friends enjoy and see if that fits as a help to you – such as cooking, gardening, watching a favorite TV show, or playing card games with your care recipient.

Think about ways to fit some exercise into your routine – 15 minutes for stretching or a short walk – or add a stress reduction practice such as prayer, yoga, or just give yourself time alone to relax or read.

When you feel nothing helps and it’s more than you can handle, seek outside help. Talk with healthcare professionals, including your own physician or those providing for your family member, if possible. Home Health Companions offers a Family Caregiver Support Group, and leads support groups at several local facilities. Call 214-295-8213 to learn more.