Monday, June 30, 2008

Caring for the Caregiver, Part 2 - Expand Your Support Network

Few people are prepared for the daunting task of care giving. Fatigue, depression, and health problems can plague a caregiver unless he or she seeks necessary relief. Thankfully, numerous options are now available for respite and renewal. Here are several suggestions:

1. Join a support group. A group related to a loved one’s illness or disease provides an opportunity to meet people who understand what you are going through. Often support groups discuss wide-ranging topics or bring in a speaker who can answer questions and suggest available resources. A social time usually follows.

Support groups bring together people from all lifestyles. During group sessions, they are able to share experiences in a safe and supportive environment, update each other since the last meeting, laugh and cry together, and many times form lasting friendships.

Support group meeting times and locations are sometimes available through local hospitals, listed in the community section of the newspaper, or on the Internet. Many people network with other caregivers in online forums.

2. Seek individual counseling. If support groups are not available in your area, consider talking to a pastor or counselor. Many churches offer free or by donation counseling and support services.

3. Surround yourself with caring people. Choose people who make you feel valued and cared about. Appropriate family members, friends or co-workers, church members, and neighbors can offer strong emotional and mental support.

During this season of time, you need positive and loving reinforcement, laughter, meaningful conversation, and the ability to share feelings and concerns.

4. Find outside interests. All caregivers should avoid isolation. Many times you may feel too tired to join a support group or attend functions. However, you must make the effort to become involved in some form of activity.

A few activities you could try are:

+ Join a group. Become a member of a group that interests you and can expand your horizons, such as a writing group, or a book or garden club.
+ Take a class. There are numerous classes held in local schools, in the community, or on the Internet. Learn a new language, paint a picture in oil or watercolor, or create a vase in pottery class.
+ Join a health club or swim at a local pool. Many schools offer free or low cost opportunities to use their pool.
+ Volunteer for an hour or two for local organizations, museums, theatre groups.
+ Walk daily or several times a week with a neighbor or friend
+ Participate in a golf league or on a bowling team.

Expanding your support network provides an opportunity for much needed respite several hours a day or week. Ask for volunteers or hire someone to care for your loved one while you take a few hours for yourself. Adult day care centers are available in many locations.

To provide adequate care to a loved one, a caregiver could seek outside activities. Although you may feel too tired to go anywhere, even the smallest step will bring a sense of renewal and will enable you, in the end, to provide better care.

What one activity would you like to do today to give yourself a mental and physical boost? Consider taking part in that activity in the next few days or weeks. You will feel much better for the experience.

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