A Message to Caregivers

Adapted from articles published by the NHPCO 
It is important to realize that although disease and its symptoms happen to the patient, illness affects the entire family. Caring for a terminally ill loved one can be rewarding, but it is physically and emotionally draining for both the caregivers and the rest of the family. You are an important person with an extremely important role to play in caring for your loved one. It’s important for you to develop ways of self-care to protect your own physical and emotional well-being. Small things you do for yourself can make a big difference. Some suggestions for staying strong are:

ACCEPT HELP

Friends, family, and hired assistants can be a source of great support. Accepting help isn’t a sign of weakness or failure on your part. Not accepting help can lead to burnout. In accepting assistance, you need to tell people specifically what you need help with. Examples are yard work, errands, bringing in food, and sitting with the patient while you rest or get out.

Respite care is short-term relief from caregiving responsibilities for in-home caregivers. It is provided to caregivers in order for them to get some much-deserved rest, go on a trip or vacation, handle personal matters, or attend a special event. Hospice care services cover up to 5-days at a time where you can be cared for in a hospice house in-patient setting.

Remember, most people sincerely want to help. They may need you to tell them what to help with and how they may best support you.

For more information on how the hospice care team can help provide support, click the link for A Team Approach to Care.

TAKE TIME FOR YOURSELF

Pleasurable events are a time of renewal. They can include taking a long walk, spending time with a supportive friend, reading a novel, or having a leisurely bath. Taking time for yourself allows you to focus on other aspects of life.

Set a goal of at least one outing per week and designate a time and date. Be sure to pay attention to the enjoyable feelings derived from your leisurely activities so you can recall them when needed.

Hospice coverage includes respite care, which can be provided up to a 5-day period of rest for you. To learn more about this benefit, read “What is respite care” within the article titled “What is Hospice?”

It is imperative that you pay attention to your own physical needs. You may get so busy with being a caregiver that you forget your own diet and fitness needs. Frozen dinners with good nutritional content are one way to ensure that you are getting what you need. Food preparation by others gives them a way to help and gives you good nourishment.

EXERCISE REGULARLY

Get some exercise—even a little helps. Exercising produces benefits of better sleep, increased energy, maintenance of the cardiovascular system, improved joint flexibility, and stimulation of the production of chemicals that alleviate stress. If you can’t get out of the house, you can benefit from a stationary bike or tension-releasing exercises, which can be done while watching television or talking on the phone. If you have never exercised regularly, it may be hard to start now. However, even stretching exercises and very short walks can help.

GET UNINTERRUPTED SLEEP

Finding someone to provide occasional night duty can assure you a few restful nights. If you are having trouble sleeping, exercising late in the afternoon, avoiding naps, and drinking warm milk before bedtime can help you sleep. If you can’t get a night of uninterrupted sleep at home, tell a Hospice team member. The social worker can help you coordinate care and look at options for evening caregiving.

PRACTICE RELAXATION

Pause for five minutes to breathe deeply. Count breaths or focus on pleasant images while sitting in a relaxed and quiet state. A gentle shoulder and neck massage can help.

KEEP YOUR SENSE OF HUMOR

Laughter stimulates the production of body chemicals, which are natural anesthetics and relaxants. Acknowledge the funny aspects of the care situation and laugh at mistakes rather than feeling remorse—it can make the situation more manageable. Remember: You are important, too.

Call Tri-Cities Chaplaincy today at (509) 783-7416 to ask questions, get answers, learn more, or begin Hospice care services. ________ Return to Hospice Resource page