Special to The Enterprise
November is National Caregivers Month, and despite common beliefs, family caregiving is still the backbone of support for frail elders and adults with disabilities.
If you are a caregiver for a loved one, you are among 52 million other Americans who are challenged to strike a balance between the needs of the care recipient, yourself and other family members. The responsibilities may seem overwhelming at times; however, most caregivers report the rewards far outweigh the burdens.
The key to achieving a manageable situation is taking care of yourself first. As every pre-flight safety demonstration shows us, secure your own oxygen mask before assisting others. This is easy advice to share but near-impossible advice for most caregivers to follow. A few principles may help:
* Remember at all times: You should not attempt to do it alone. Seek and accept help from family and friends. Caregivers often resist accepting offers of support to avoid feelings of guilt and incompetency. If you are a friend or family member, be persuasive.
* Honor yourself. You are doing a hard job and you deserve some quality time just for you. Don’t let your loved one’s disability always take center stage.
* Be open to technologies and ideas. Keep yourself well informed by continually seeking new information.
* Grieve your losses and allow yourself to dream new dreams.
* Join a support group.
Many people in a caregiver’s life can be part of the team: family members near and far, friends, faith community members, volunteers and community service providers. The holiday season provides an excellent opportunity for families to talk. Make it a priority.
Remember, it is important to always be planning ahead for both likely and unlikely changes. Pre-arrangements reduce anxiety and often can curtail a crisis. It is stressful not knowing what lies ahead, so reach out for support from others in order to be resilient and stay strong.
For more information about resources, planning and support groups, call the Yolo Adult Day Health Center at 530-666-8828.
— Dawn Myers Purkey, who holds a master of social work, is program manager for Woodland Healthcare’s Yolo Adult Day Health Center in Woodland. The center is designed to promote the independence of frail adults by providing medical, social, rehabilitative, recreational and respite assistance. In addition, caregivers receive needed support such as time off, support groups, resource information, training and counseling.