November is National Caregiver Month. It is a time to honor to those who have sacrificed their time, money, and physical and emotional strength in service of another. The theme this year is “Caregiving Around the Clock.” This simply means caregivers often give of themselves and rarely take the time for self-care.
These caregivers are mothers, fathers, grandparents, children, nurses, etc. They are someone who shops, bathes, cleans houses and comforts others in need. Some do it for work, but most do it because they are taking care of a friend or family member and it is often unpaid. It can be difficult and taxing, especially if the caregiver is also working a full-time job. This month is used to raise awareness about the important role of a caregiver in our community and that they also need to be taken care of. If you are a caregiver, remember to take care of yourself, too, so you can continue to give to those you love.
Being a caregiver to a loved one with a substance use disorder provides its own set of challenges. The National Alliance for Caregiving posted a study from the American Academy of Pediatrics that shows over 1.3 million children are part of the caregiving community. They care for family members who suffer from physical and/or mental illness, along with substance abuse. Caregivers often provide personal care, money assistance, management of symptoms related to the illness, and making sure their loved one receives treatment and sticks with the treatment plan. They can also find themselves dealing with the consequences associated with the addictive behavior of their loved one, some taking on emotional or physical abuse.
Suggestions for Taking Care of Yourself as a Caregiver
Taking care of yourself when taking care of another is quite frankly a thankless job. The demands of your loved one’s life can seem greater than your own. Choosing to prioritize your needs will help you be more available to meet someone else’s needs. It can also help you avoid burnout. Here are some simple ways to make your life a little easier.
Schedule “You” Time
Managing your time is important, so make sure you are prioritizing your schedule. Doctor appointments are not only for those you are caring for; if you aren’t healthy, how are you going to take care of anyone else? Aside from making sure you’re physically well, take time to watch a movie, make a date with a close friend or take a long walk some place scenic. Put these activities on your schedule and do everything you can not to reschedule them for next time. If you put them on the schedule, you are less likely to let time slip by and not do it.
Use Technology as a Resource
Cell phones, apps and websites can be your biggest resources as a caregiver. Embracing technology can help you in many ways because there are so many things you can do that make life a bit easier, such as managing medication or scheduling appointments. Being able to schedule notifications and having everything in one place can be a lifesaver when you are caring for others and yourself.
Being rested is an integral part of being healthy. If you are lighting the candle at both ends, burnout is just around the corner. Rest can look like a lot of things, sleeping being the obvious one. A 20-minute power nap is known to lift mood, mental alertness, increase reaction time, boost memory and reduce fatigue. If napping just isn’t for you, sitting quietly reading a book or meditating could be an alternative way to get a bit of rest during your day.
It may feel, sometimes, as if you are the only person able to care for your loved one. However, it is important to reach out for help and accept it when it is offered. Sources of help can come from other family and friends. You can also hire a professional to provide respite care once or twice a week. This would allow you to schedule time to take care of your needs.
Taking care of someone else, including yourself, can be overwhelming. Paperwork can pile up and get missed, appointments forgotten, medication misplaced, etc. Taking the time to have the paperwork in order and in a safe place can save time when it is needed. Pill holders for medication can help avoid a missed medication or forgetting to order more when they are going to run out. It can provide some peace of mind and calm in the middle of what can sometimes feel chaotic.
Caregivers deserve to have the support they need when they need it. Access to care is one of those needs. If you are a caregiver to a loved one of someone who is abusing drugs and/or alcohol, New Hope Ranch is here to help. You don’t have to be ashamed or embarrassed of the circumstances and challenges you are facing. We understand and are here to help. We provide thorough mental health assessments to plan out the right, individualized treatment for you or your loved one. We have several therapies available to our patients on our beautiful ranch in Manor, Texas, just outside of Austin. You do not have to do this alone—reach out to New Hope Ranch at (737) 600-8565.