Have you ever been cared for or needed to care for another person? Caregiving is a demanding role that is a unique and an individual experience for both giver and receiver. Caretaking can be multi-dimensional in the roles and demands involved. Often an episode of caregiving begins when a loved one’s health status changes. This can be a change in mental acuity, physical mobility, or even general independence. Once this happens, there is a shift in the previously established relationship dynamic established between the two individuals. This shift is often challenging and sometimes uncomfortable. The first step toward progress and peace in this time of transition is simply to recognize that change is necessary. The following are some suggestions to help make the transition smoother:
· Compromise: Wearing a new hat and taking on new responsibilities can be unsettling. Finding a suitable compromise for both parties is ideal. Compromise includes brainstorming on ways to meet needs, retain dignity and respect, maximize quality of life, and maintain independence. This process is not easy and is a common challenge among caretakers. Give everyone in the equation time to acclimate and remember the important part is to keep trying.
· Resources: Support groups, therapy, and health care services are all things to take advantage of. These resources exist to lend support, encouragement, knowledge, and guidance for those involved in caregiving.
· Self-care: Finding a feasible and constructive outlet for stress is important to avoid “burn out”. This could mean taking the time to exercise, establishing a support team, eating healthfully, getting a massage, getting enough sleep or spending time with friends. Any of these suggestions will help your body stay in optimal function to allow you to continue providing care.
· Physical Therapy: Teaching caregivers safe and efficient ways to provide daily care is a fundamental part of the physical therapy practice. Tasks such as guarding with walking, assistance with negotiating stairs, and transferring the patient to and from a wheelchair, toilet, or bed can be observed and practiced during therapy. The therapist can instruct caregivers as well as patients how to perform these tasks with protective body mechanics. A physical therapist can also assess home safety as well guide how to safely travel whether that be by car, train, plane or boat.
In summary, it is okay to feel the strain of a new role in either giving or receiving care. Not all transitions and role changes are smooth or quick. Don’t give up, take care of yourself as a caregiver, and work toward the goals of everyone involved! Let us know if you need assistance!