In my last blog post, I shared with you about the role of the caregiver. You are an unsung hero who carries the weight of grief as you tend to the one you love. You labor and yet, you don’t tell others of the weariness you feel. To admit this may feel as if you are revealing a weakness in your bond with the one who is dying. It feels like…complaining. It is not and you are merely human with human capacity to carry the weight of the caregiver role.
I understand your burden, more importantly, Jesus understands your burden and wants to help you carry it. In this post, I want to focus on your self-care and how to engage others to help you in your time of need. Just as a flight attendant instructs you to secure your oxygen mask before assisting another, you must take care of yourself before you can safely help the one who is ill or dying.
Here are some essential self-care practices for caregivers:
- Seek Support: Work with family and friends to develop a call tree. A call tree will be useful if you need help and will also be useful to notify others of a change in status of the one who is ill. It allows you to make one call, and that person will start the tree to notify others of a need, prayer request, visit, or something else.
- Share with others: The greatest suffering is carried in silence. Even if it is only one person with whom you share every emotion, it is important to have that opportunity to be real. This person may be someone in your family, a friend, or an expert in patient and caregiver care. This expert could be a pastor, a chaplain, a hospice nurse, an End-of-Life Doula, or a counselor.
- Establish times of respite: Regular intervals of rest, self-care activities, and fresh air allow you to fill up so that you can give out. Going till you are fully depleted will take away from the precious time you have with the one you love.
- Prioritize your physical and mental health: If you previously had an activity or hobby you loved, schedule time to do it. Exercise, Mindfulness, and Relaxation Techniques are examples of specific self-care routines proven to improve immune status, mood, endorphins, and energy levels.
- Use online resources: Below are five online resources specifically for the caregiver.
- AARP Caregiving (www.aarp.org/caregiving) The American Association of Retired Person offers a comprehensive caregiver’s resource center with information on topic like caregiver support, legal and financial matters, health and wellness, and long-term care options.
- Family Caregiver Alliance (www.caregiver.org) This website provides an extensive range of resources, including fact sheets, online support groups, and care planning guides. They focus on supporting family caregivers and offer information specific to various health conditions and stages of caregiving.
- National Alliance for Caregiving (www.caregiving.org) This alliance offers research, advocacy, and support for caregivers.
- Caregiver Action Network (www.caregiveraction.org) This network provides practical tools, educational resources, and support for caregivers. Webinars, tip sheets, and an online community educate and allow you to connect with an online community with others in similar situations.
- Alzheimer’s Association (www.alz.org) Caring for a patient with Alzheimer’s has unique and difficult challenges. The Alzheimer’s Association is an invaluable resource for caregiving strategies, support groups, and education.
Some may be naturally gifted with the ability to be a caregiver. Others may find the role to be entirely foreign and fear of “doing it wrong” adds stress and anxiety. I want you to understand that regardless of your natural abilities, the caregiving role is difficult. This is especially so if you are caring for someone you love.
You are not alone, and You Matter Here! If you have questions or prayer requests, please submit to our Contact Us form. For now, my prayer for you is below:
Dear Lord and Savior,
Your Word reminds us of how you value each of us and can count the hairs upon our head. Nothing is beyond your sight and all wisdom is yours. Lord, I pray for those who may worry or are anxious as they care for the one’s they love. Lord, please comfort them. Please reveal to them your presence. Please give them discernment. Please bring to them the resources they seek and the peace they need to find the quiet in their storm. Lord, you are King of Kings, Prince of Peace, Emmanuel – God with us. Be with us as we serve you as your hands and feet for the sheep that are lost and the ones in your hand.
In Your Holy Name We Pray,