Being able to care for someone is both rewarding and challenging. Whether you are new to caregiving or have been doing it for a long time, you know that every day is different. Dr. Elizabeth Necka and Amanda Atkinson, MSN, RN discuss some common questions asked by caregivers.
Long-distance caregiving is becoming more and more common. How can families in this situation stay involved and informed? And what are some tips for keeping those in their care safe and making sure they take all recommended medications?
Being away from someone you are caring for can be hard, but you can still provide valuable help from a distance. Long-distance caregivers can do things like helping to organize medical, financial, and legal paperwork. Though it can be hard to provide physical support in real-time when you live far away, you may be able to step in to help organize food deliveries, schedule doctor’s visits, or help them connect with support groups or other resources in the community. Your local Area Agency on Aging usually has some great resources. Another way to stay connected is to make sure you plan regular visits with the person you are caring for. These visits can be in person or on the phone. You can even have a video call to check-in. Regular contact helps them feel connected and cared for and it helps you feel confident that those you are caring for are OK.
We know that caregivers need support. What are some tips to help cope with caregiver fatigue?
Many people find caregiving to be very rewarding. They often feel more connected to the person they are caring for and feel a sense of purpose. However, that is not always the case. Sometimes the pressure of managing your life and caring for someone begins to pile up. If you notice that you are beginning to feel stress or fatigue, try to focus on the positive aspects of caregiving. Remember, you are important too and so are your health and well-being. It is important for you to find time for yourself and your needs. If you are feeling stressed, see if someone else in the family can provide care while you have a night off or a weekend away. If there is no one else to care for them, there are agencies that provide respite care (a temporary caregiver). You can contact your local hospital, home health service, or your local Agency on Aging for more information. Seeking counseling or just talking to a friend over coffee can help process your feelings and release stress. Many caregivers also take comfort in knowing they are not alone. Consider joining a caregiver support group, either in your community or virtually, to have a place to exchange stories, ideas, and tips for navigating the caregiving experience
Mental health plays an important role in our lives. How can caregivers find support and relieve anxiety and worry associated with caring for someone?
For many caregivers, it might feel like there’s no time in the day to take care of yourself but remember – you will best be able to take care of someone else if you first take care of yourself. It’s like flight attendants say on an airplane: put your own mask on first before helping others. Small things – like eating healthy food, getting regular exercise, and making sure you see your doctor regularly – are important, and you can also try to find time for friends or social support in the form of a caregiver’s support group. Don’t be afraid to ask for help – it can take a village to get the right care for someone in need.
What are some ways caregivers can help those in their care avoid flare-ups and stay on top of medications?
There are several ways that you as a caregiver can help keep those that you care for on the track to living well. One way is encouraging those you are caring for to take all their medication as prescribed by their doctor. You can help them remember to take their medicine by using a daily pillbox. This allows their medicine to be organized and laid out by day, so they do not forget anything. Some pillboxes even include alarms that can remind a person to take their medication. You can leave notes and reminders where they will see them. If you are far away, you can call them regularly to remind them to take their medication. Reminding them to get active each day will also help them stay healthy. As a caregiver, you need exercise too. For some, staying active is more fun with a partner. Find an activity that you can do together. This will not only help them stay healthy, but also help you connect with each other.
Caregivers play such an important role in the lives of those living with chronic conditions. Remember that YOU are valued and what you are doing makes a difference. Check out the COPD Foundation’s caregiver resources for more tips and best practices.
Let’s chat! If you are a caregiver, what are some ways that you successfully navigate that role? If you are an individual living with COPD, what are some things that have helped you remain healthy and connect with your caregivers?