Caregivers are those individuals who on a day-to-day basis provide the physical and emotional personal care for the patients.
There may be many caregivers for any one patient or there may be only one. The responsibilities placed on the caregivers are enormous and take a huge psychological and physical toll. Many caregivers become so absorbed with meeting the patient's needs that they neglect their own.
We encourage you to take time for yourself to maintain your own health. Taking an occasional break in your routine of giving care will help you avoid becoming over-stressed and vulnerable to other problems. Hospice volunteers provide relief and respite for caregivers so they can manage the daily needs of their lives, other family members, get some rest or simply get away from the home and take a walk, go shopping or visit a friend.
By taking care of yourself, you are also making sure that you will be able to continue caring for the patient. Here are a few ways you can take care of yourself:
- Get the food and rest you need.
- Make yourself sit down and eat 3 meals a day; it is easy to forget when you are busy and under stress.
- If your sleep at night is disturbed by giving care, take a nap during the day while the patient rests or while the HPHPC volunteer is there. When you miss more than a few nights of sleep, it can be hard to keep going.
- Take time for yourself!
- Get out for a breath of fresh air or a change of scene. Even a brief walk around the neighborhood can make a big difference in your outlook. Relax in a warm bathtub, read a book or listen to music. Let yourself be alone for a short time to clear your head. Ask a hospice volunteer to stay with the patient while you take time for yourself.
- Let others take part in the work of caregiving.
- Allow other friends and family members and hospice staff to participate. They won't feel so powerless when they feel included by doing something- anything- to help. By allowing friends to help, you enable them to give something back to you and your loved one. Let people bring meals, run errands, sit with the patient or take the children out. Hospice social workers are also available to help you explore other options to privately pay for help if needed. Allow yourself to tell people what they can do to help.
- Seek and accept support for yourself.
- Talk to friends and family about your feelings. This may not be easy, but it is healthy to cry and express emotions. Members of your hospice team will take time to listen and offer support.
- Find ways to care for your spiritual life. Whether or not you are affiliated with a particular religion, your view of life can be affected by caring for someone who is dying. Seeking guidance from someone who shares your spiritual outlook can help. Our hospice chaplains are an available resource to provide spiritual support if needed.