Daily Press (Newport News, Va.)
June 18, 2010
As the population ages, a growing number of people are caring for an ailing family member or friend at home. Here are tips from doctors:
Take care of yourself. Stress puts caregivers at greater risk for colds, flu, exhaustion and chronic illnesses such as heart disease and diabetes. Eat well, exercise, get enough sleep and go to the doctor regularly.
Don't help too much. Let the person you are caring for stay as independent as possible. Divide complex tasks into simple steps, allow for some mistakes - as long as safety isn't a question - and let the patient make some decisions, even if they are as small as what to eat or wear.
Let people help you. Don't be afraid to ask for specific things you need, such as supplies from the grocery store, a hand with yard work or a break from care giving for part of the day.
Give the patient things to do. Studies have shown that nursing home residents asked to care for pets or plants live longer and maintain more independence. Also try to engage patients in activities such as reading, doing puzzles or playing board games.
Look into outside services. Your options may include home health aides, adult day care centers, respite care, Meals on Wheels and grocery delivery programs. Your local agency on aging can help connect you.
Take pride in your efforts. Being a caregiver is not easy. Don't expect yourself to be perfect - it's normal to feel annoyed or frustrated at times. But if you feel near a breaking point, take a breather.
Watch for signs of depression. Extreme sadness or hopelessness that lingers more than two weeks is a sign that you may need professional help.