Your wife falls. Your husband is diagnosed with dementia. Becoming the person who cares for a spouse can happen suddenly or over a period of time. Regardless, the transition into this role is not an easy one.
It can be overwhelming at times. Family members often join the patient in a period of grief caused by a loss of function and changes in their perception of the future. Cherished dreams of an active life together no longer seem probable. Just getting through daily life seems next to impossible. Adjusting to the role of caregiver will take time. Severe injury, chronic disease, or disability often requires changes in family roles. Reversing roles relinquishing old roles, or acquiring new roles and obligations can all result in serious disruption in the family and stress for the new caregiver.
Here are some things you can do to ease yourself into the role of caregiver.
- Educate yourself.
Learn about your loved one’s condition. There is truth to the old saying that knowledge is power. Learning more allows you to prepare effectively for challenges you may face. It will also help you feel more comfortable advocating for your love one. Print this handy Guide to Talking to the Doctor to help you gather the information you need.
- Plan for the future.
Engage in legal and financial planning. This can be a delicate matter but it is important. Knowing that all of the legal issues are under control allows you to focus on the current situation rather than worrying about the future. You may find this reference helpful.
- Get connected.
Build a network of support people – friends, family members, neighbors, support groups and h community resources. Check into the availability of respite care, meal delivery, shopping services and other resources that help keep you from becoming overwhelmed by a never-ending to-do list.
- Indulge yourself.
Take care of yourself. You can often become so caught up in caring for your loved one that you may forget to take care of yourself. Caregivers must also find time for themselves, away from their caregiving roles. This perhaps is the most important coping strategy for you right now. Find a way to make it happen!
- Monitor your own condition.
Know the signs of caregiver fatigue and take appropriate actions. This is such an important topic that I have decided to dedicate a separate post to it.