Caring for a loved one is easier if you get the support you need to keep up your emotional strength. There are many resources that can help you get the backing you need.
Find a Caregiver Organization
Many national groups have helpful information about what your loved one is going through. By having a better understanding of the situation, you'll feel better prepared to deal with whatever comes your way, says Marion Somers, PhD, author of Elder Care Made Easier.
"It may also help to alleviate any blame or guilt you feel," she says.
Some organizations that can help are:
- National Alliance for Caregiving
- Family Caregiver Alliance
- Caregiver Action Network
- Administration on Aging
- Alzheimer's Association
The web sites of these groups are good resources for:
- Information about caregiving
- Education programs
- Lists of support groups
- Videos and pamphlets
Join a Support Group
"The magic of these groups is that everyone there is dealing with the same or similar problems," Somers says. "You can expect to receive support, empathy, and often some very practical solutions and advice."
Find one through:
- Your local hospital
- A community center
- A religious institution
- Your loved one's doctor
- A national caregiver organization
- Local chapters of specific disease groups (like the American Heart Association or Alzheimer's Association)
Get Professional Help
A therapist or counselor can give you emotional and practical support. You'll work through the challenges of caregiving and find strength to keep going. A counselor can help you manage stress, make hard decisions, and find a balance between caregiving, family, and work.
A counselor can also evaluate your needs as a caregiver, create a support plan, and make referrals to other caregiver resources.
You can try individual, family, or group therapy.
To find a professional counselor, ask for recommendations from:
- Your doctor
- Clergy at your religious organization
- Friends and family
- Your employer's human resources department
Also call your health insurance company for a list of providers covered under your policy. And check the web site of the National Association of Social Workers and the American Mental Health Counselors Association.
Lean on Family and Friends
"Caring for aging parents can be extremely isolating," says Chris Herman, an eldercare expert with the National Association of Social Workers. "Family members and friends may be able to provide support."
You can get emotional backing from family, friends, clergy members, or other people in the community. Letting them know what's on your mind can relieve stress and help you feel understood and supported.
Family and friends can also help you care for your loved one. "Don't be afraid to ask for help from others in your family or in your community," Somers says.
Get Help to Make Things Easier on You
Take advantage of programs and services that help you with practical aspects of caregiving. "Hire help if you need to," Somers says.
- Adult day care
- Home health care
- Respite care
- Home delivered meals
- Nutrition programs
These services can relieve your stress and give you a break from around-the-clock care. You'll have more time to work or rest. That's good for your well-being, which can make you a better caregiver.
Some are publicly funded, so the cost may be lower than you think. You can find local services through the Eldercare Locator (www.eldercare.gov or 800-677-1116).
Take Care of Yourself
"As a caregiver, your health and well-being is essential to your ability to take care of your loved one," Somers says. You'll give better care if you're feeling good physically and emotionally.
Eat well and exercise. Try relaxation techniques like meditation. Make time for yourself. "Just taking a few moments for yourself each day can make all the difference," Somers says.