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Finding Balance in Caregiving

Caregivers understand that they face demanding, yet rewarding circumstances when caring for a family member. For adult children, it can be a way of giving back to a parent. For a spouse, it may be the expression of a love that never ends. In addition to knowing that they are fulfilling the needs and preferences of their family member, caregivers often express the feeling that they live a more purposeful life and are at peace with themselves.

The most successful caregivers are blessed with strength, endurance, compassion, patience and unselfishness. Not everyone is naturally endowed with these virtues, so we suggest making an honest assessment about your caregiving attributes and be realistic about the needs of your family member. Caregivers who understand their strengths and shortcomings can learn to find a balance between their role as a caregiver and their personal needs.

Caregivers need to embrace the notion that successfully caring for another also requires caring for themselves.

Rarely, can a single person fulfill all of the responsibilities needed by one who is suffering from a disease or disability. It usually takes a team of health care professionals, family members, care providers and support services. Caregivers can better manage such a demanding job by using the resources of others. Studies show that taking periodic breaks from the caregiving role (known as respite,) participating in support groups and/or counseling help caregivers remain successful, with less stress and greater satisfaction.

This may seem obvious, but in reality caregivers are more likely to get wrapped up in the role of caregiving to the extent they neglect their own health. According to the Family Caregiver Alliance, depression, coronary heart disease, hypertension, poor immune function, slower wound healing and increased risk of mortality are faced my many caregivers, especially women.

If you are a caregiver, how can you find balance, take care of yourself while providing the care that your family member needs? While the answer is simple, it may not be so simple to do. It is the act of letting go and acknowledging that others can help you from time to time with caregiving.

Options range from creating an informal support network of relatives, friends and neighbors to using organizations devoted to helping caregivers. Although you may not have received offers from relatives, friends and neighbors to help with caregiving, it doesn’t mean they are unwilling to lend a hand. They simply may not know how to offer or what to do. You may be surprised at their quickness to agree to help with a specific task.

Remember to take care of yourself, it’s the first step in taking care of the one you love.

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