Beware, caregivers… or maybe, be aware, caregivers.

If you’re taking care of a family member, you are doing one of the most demanding jobs out there. I know “demanding” might seem harsh to some, but the toll it takes on you can be overwhelming.

We’re going to talk a bit about taking care of you, so you can continue to care for others.

I can imagine the thoughts — because I’ve heard them many times:

• This isn’t about me. It’s about Dad (Mom, Aunt Sadie, etc.)

• There’s only so much time in the day, and I need to make sure he’s OK

• I can handle it — I just need to be better organized

• This isn’t about the work, it’s about family

Yep. All true, as far as it goes. However, as noted in this space numerous times before, what happens if you wear out? Then who takes of whom?

There are lots of organizations, groups and just plain people available online for suggestions to make your situation a bit easier — or at least less stressful. And, yes, I also hear:

• I’m lucky if I have time to even look at the computer, let alone research a myriad of sites.

Let’s start with just three sites that I find to be especially helpful — then when you have time, you can launch out for more. Follow the links across the top for everything from Tips to Articles.

Caregiver Action Network — Information, experiences, tips and more from people who have been there — or are currently family caregivers. Our website offers information and contacts all about family caregiving and the Family Caregiver Support Program.

Great. First I tell you I don’t have time to surf around, then you give me websites to look for. I get it. Think of these as resources if and when you find the time. For now, how about some general tips and reminders you can stick on the fridge, put by the coffee pot, or next to the bed? I’m a big fan of summaries and cheatsheets.

Some of the following tips are paraphrased from Caregiver Action, with some personal notes added:

• Remember you’re not alone. Talk to others in similar situations. Share & receive

• Make — and take — the time stay healthy. A few minutes deep breathing, or exercise can make a difference.

• Be willing to accept help

• Connect — and use the connection — with health care professionals

Take breaks when you can — even unscheduled!

• Be aware that when tired, emotions can become more intense, as can depression/anxiety

• Check any legal/medical documents and keep them together

• Post notes — prescriptions, schedules, etc., where you easily look at them

• (Exact quote) “Give yourself credit for doing the best you can in one of the toughest jobs there is!”

So, be aware, caregivers. Be aware that it is hard work — and appreciated. Be aware that people around you know what’s happening and would probably like to help.

And finally, be aware that those of us work daily with families in similar situations are thankful you are there.

Information & Assistance

Long Beach: 360-642-3634 or 888-571-6558

Raymond: 360-942-2177 or 888-571-6557

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