How to care for a loved one who has lost their health

In 2020, one in five American adults tried on the role of a babysitter. That is, for some time he became the person who inseparably cares for an elderly relative, a child with special needs, or a spouse who has lost mobility.

And this is in the USA, with developed insurance medicine, a fairly high level of income of citizens and a common habit of creating savings , which, at least theoretically, can be enough for a professional nurse. What happens in less prosperous countries, where caring for loved ones in need of help is traditionally considered a purely family responsibility, one can only guess.

At one time, Rosalynn Carter, wife of US President Jimmy Carter and founder of the Guardianship Institute, uttered the legendary phrase:

Rosalynn Carter

Founder of the Institute of Guardianship.

There are only four types of people in the world. Those who have been carers before. Those who are caring for loved ones right now. Those who will become guardians in the future. And those who need or will need help.

Sometimes people become guardians in the blink of an eye, such as when a close relative is seriously injured or has a stroke . But often this is a gradual process. First, the person can no longer cope with some daily activities and you have to go to the grocery store instead. Then you realize that he cannot cook food for himself. Wash up. Forgets to take medication on time. And now you seem to be not a carer yet, but your life has already changed: you cannot go on vacation or take a walk with friends if you do not find someone who will look after the ward for you.

Finding a replacement is not always easy. The constant need to take care of someone leads to fatigue, irritation, aggression. And this is a serious problem.

How not to burn out and not turn caring for a loved one into hard labor for yourself and a hell full of helplessness and guilt for the ward? Here are eight tips from people who have been carers for a long time, and from psychologists who help caregivers deal with the inevitable stress .

1. Let the mentee make decisions

It is important that the loved one who needs your help continues to feel like a person, and not just a burden. It gives confidence and helps reduce stress levels. And to both sides.

Listen to the opinion of the ward, involve him in decision-making (if possible). In this case, your relationship from the “one gives – the other consumes” format will turn into a partnership. You can become a psychological support for each other.

2. Focus on joyful moments together

These moments are life. Plunging into them, you can distract from the difficulties for a while. And just to feel: my dear person is alive, he is near, we are together.

Marnie

Guardian, letter to the editor of The New York Times.

The first days of caring for my mother were not easy. Both for her and for me. But we shared our feelings and worked out the issues. My favorite memory is sitting on our lovely covered porch with my mother listening to the radio. She swings in her chair, and I embroider. We would spend hours like this! Mom has been gone for four years. If I could just stay a little longer with her on this veranda, while she gently sways in an armchair, and I sew, I would feel like in paradise.

What these moments will be is not so important. Play cards. Eat ice cream. Go through photos full of warm memories. Listen to music and sing along. This is what unites you. And something that will forever be remembered.

Write down each such event in a special notebook – gratitude diary . It will become your source of strength.

3. Feel free to ask other family members or friends for help

Make a list of tasks that you could delegate to someone. It can be grocery shopping, cooking dinner. Or, for example, a walk – perhaps your ward has friends with whom he could chat for an hour or two without your presence.

Do not demand, but at least ask if other people can help. From time to time you need a break . And perhaps one of the family members, acquaintances, neighbors will want and be able to provide it to you.

4. Listen to the experts

You should learn more about the disease or condition you are dealing with. Contact the clinic where your loved one is being seen. Perhaps there you will be prompted by the addresses of rehabilitation centers or charitable organizations that provide assistance in similar cases.

In addition, profile groups can be found in social networks. Don’t miss the opportunity to get advice from a doctor or professional caregiver.

5. Find a Support Group

It can be all the same profile community in social networks. Or a “live” support group: these sometimes gather at rehabilitation or psychological centers.

It is important that you have someone to share your experiences, fatigue, anxiety with. To be able to feel that you are not alone.

The same support group should be looked for for your ward, if his condition allows you to communicate with other people.

6. Set realistic goals

It is impossible to fully work, do housework and spend a lot of time with your loved one at the same time. Trying to combine several activities at once, you run the risk of driving yourself and falling asleep with overwork .

To prevent this from happening, follow a few simple rules:

  • Break large tasks down into small steps that can be completed one at a time.
  • Set your priorities. For example, today the most important thing is to go to the doctor and buy medicines. Tomorrow – take a walk with the ward for at least 2-3 hours. The day after tomorrow, finish the job. Concentrate on the main task and do not reproach yourself for not having time to complete the secondary ones.
  • Make to-do lists for the day. They will help you plan your time better and show you how much you are doing.
  • Set a daily routine and follow it.
  • Avoid boring activities. Suppose, from the need to prepare a gala dinner of five courses. To create a sense of celebration, sometimes cake and tea are enough, the serving of which does not take much effort.

7. Try to get rid of guilt

Sometimes it’s okay to feel guilty . You just need to understand: no one can be a perfect guardian. Believe that you are doing everything for your ward that you have the strength to do. You are already a hero. Don’t forget about it.

8. Take care of yourself

Be sure to take several 5-10 minute breaks every day when you are caring for a loved one. This time should be yours alone. It is needed in order to:

  • write down one more item in the gratitude diary – a small joy that happened to you today;
  • do a short workout ;
  • meditate;
  • listen to your favorite song, leaning back in a chair;
  • just look out the window.

Sometimes take a day off: at least once a week, delegate your guardianship to another relative or hired caregiver. Never turn down friendly offers of help. Get enough sleep . Consult a therapist if you are unwell, and regularly undergo preventive examinations with specialized doctors.

Your health is important not only for you: the life of a loved one depends on your well-being. Take care of yourself.

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