Tuesday, December 6, 2011
Just The Way You Are - Caring for the Caregiver
Hearing that your child has a disability is hard, but having to live day by day with a child or family member who has a disability is probably one of the hardest things anyone will ever have to do. It presents unique challenges, unwanted hardships, and daily frustrations. A caregiver, such as a parent, can get discouraged and tired when dealing with the struggles that come along with having a disabled family member.
I can attest to the difficulty. I spent the first four months of my son’s life making 2 to 4 trips to Vanderbilt per week, have spent his whole life fighting the Social Security office to get him SSI, make weekly trips to physical therapy, and have watched him have major, life-threatening surgery on more than one occasion. This is definitely not what I expected or wanted when I found out that I would be a mother, and this is the case with anyone who has a family member with a disability. No one signs up for it, and yet, there they are, forced into a position unexpected, unwanted, and uncontrollable. It is so easy to get burnt out or feel like you are in over your head. Taking care of yourself when faced with such challenges is vital not only to your health, but to the health of the person you are taking care of.
Helpguide.org has some valuable suggestions on how to prevent caregiver burn out and I would like to share them with you. The first suggestion is to learn as much as you can about the illness that the person you are caring for has. It will help you feel empowered and confident that you are doing all that you can and caring for them properly.Secondly, know your limits. I know that I struggle with this one. I want to be there for my son 24/7 and I feel like no one else can care for him as well as me. I struggle to allow others to do things for him. Realistically though, I can’t be there around the clock because of work, school, and my other responsibilities, and also for my own sanity. It helps me when I can step away for just a moment, let someone else take care of Christian, and focus on what I need. Be honest with yourself and realize where you need to draw the line. It will not benefit you or the person you are caring for if you are physically worn out and emotionally exhausted. Ask for help when you need it, and realize that asking for help doesn’t mean that you are weak, incapable, or lazy.
Thirdly, accept your feelings. Being thrown into the position of caregiver can bring about some emotions that most people wouldn’t expect, such as anger, resentment, guilt, and helplessness. Know that these feelings are not wrong. As long as you don’t compromise the well being of the care receiver, allow yourself to deal with your feelings. The fourth suggestion follows right along. Talk with someone you trust, find ways to cope with your feelings in a healthy manner. Do not bottle them up and repress them. There are also caregiver supports groups that you can get involved in, but counselors and therapists are a good option too.
And to all those who read this who are not care givers, I hope that you can understand the immense pressure that is put on a care giver. If you know someone who is a care giver and you would like to help care for them, there a multitude of things you can do. Offer to sit with their family member for the evening so they can go to dinner. If that is unrealistic under their circumstances, then send them a card, visit them, or bring them lunch. Sit and talk with them, let them vent their frustrations without casting judgment. Let them know that someone cares about them and that they are doing a great job.
I would also like to share with you some resources that you may be able to tap into to help you be the best caregiver that you can. The Upper Cumberland Human Resources Agency (UCHRA) has a wealth of resources that I urge you to look in to. Cannon County offers a transportation program that is available to anyone, but the elderly and the disabled get first priority. If you are struggling to afford the gas to take your family member to doctor’s appointments or wherever they need to go, this is a great resource. There is also an Energy Assistance Program that will help with utility bills for low income families and Cannon County also offers a Commodity Program which essentially gives free food to low income families. You may have an elderly family member on a fixed income who could use this, or might be able to use this yourself if the strain of caring for a disabled family member has left your resources stretched thin.
Mr. Larry Davis, the coordinator for the Cannon County UCHRA suggests that if you are planning on tapping into any of these resources, give their office at least 2 days notice if possible. The resources they have to dispense can change quickly, so to ensure that you get the help that you need, please call ahead of time. The Cannon County UCHRA office is located at 301 West Main Street, inside of the Adams Memorial Library, Room 302, in Woodbury. You can reach their office at 615-563-2916 or e-mail Mr. Davis at email@example.com
I hope you have found some useful information that will help you on your journey of care giving. If you have any ideas, comments, or questions, please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.