Important information for carers
Rule number one for all caregivers is to take care of yourself. Providing care while holding down a job, running a household, or parenting can burn anyone out. A person who is exhausted or sick is more likely to make bad decisions or take out frustrations inappropriately.
Stress is known to contribute to a variety of health problems. The more you keep your own well-being in balance, the more you will enhance your coping skills and stamina. By taking care of yourself, you will be better able, both physically and emotionally, to provide care for your loved one.
Reach out to other caregivers
Connect to the caregiving community. Share and learn and benefit from the collective wisdom of the caregiver community. It is important that caregivers connect with one another to gain strength and to know that they are not alone.
For many, the isolation that comes with the job is eased by attending support group meetings with others in similar situations. Support groups provide emotional support and caregiving tips, as well as information on community resources.
Online support groups can be very helpful. The Reeve Foundation supports active community forums and discussions about all issues related to caregiving.
Therapy or counselling may also facilitate better problem solving. Counselling can help one cope with feelings of anger, frustration, guilt, loss or competing personal, work and family demands.
Know as much as possible about your loved one's condition. Be informed about medical issues and how the disease or disability can affect a person physically, psychologically, behaviourally, etc. You are an important member of your loved one's healthcare team.
Researching on the web is another powerful tool for learning about the spinal cord impairment.
Doctors and other health professionals can help you understand how a loved one's condition might change and how that change might affect the demands on the caregiver.
Schedule down time
Take advantage of opportunities for respite care. Refresh yourself and take an occasional break from daily duties. An extended holiday may not be realistic, but it is essential for caregivers to schedule some down time. This may be a short outing, quiet time at home, a movie with a friend, etc.
To get away, the caregiver may require respite care/assistance from others. Talk to the Peer and Whanau Support team for information about possible connections to help you get a break.
Ask for help.
Many caregivers are so accustomed to providing help and seeing to another person's needs that they don't know how to ask for aid themselves. Your family is your first resource. Spouses, brothers and sisters, children, and other relatives can do a lot to ease your caregiving burden. Let them know what they can and should do.
Know everything you can about tools and adaptive equipment. It is essential that caregivers know about the homecare products and services that might make their jobs easier.
Empower your loved one.
As you settle into the role of caregiver, you may find yourself making decisions for people who used to decide for you. It's sometimes a trick to balance competing needs for control. But it's important to respect the right of the person being cared for to make choices.
Choice is good; by deciding things we have a sense of control over our lives. Allow your loved one as much choice as possible, from the food on the menu to their daily wardrobe to TV programming.
Gain confidence in your abilities and pride in your achievements. Easier said than done – how do you stand up for yourself, take care of yourself, and find a balance between your own needs and those of your loved ones?
Choose to take charge of your life. Don't let your loved one's illness or disability always take centre stage. We fall into caregiving often because of an unexpected event, but somewhere along the line you need to step back and consciously say, “I choose to take on this caregiving role.” It goes a long way toward eliminating the feeling of being a victim.
Don't be ashamed to ask for help. When people offer assistance, accept it and suggest specific things that they can do. Caregiving, especially at its most intense levels, is more than a one-person job. Asking for help is a sign of your strength and an acknowledgment of your abilities and limitations.