Solutions for Nine Common Caregiving Challenges
Being a good caregiver for a person with arthritis means you first must take good care of yourself.
Take care of yourself: It’s advice you’ve probably heard countless times from medical professionals, friends and family members. If you’re a caregiver to a person with arthritis, meeting your own needs in addition to those of the person you’re caring for can be a challenge.
In fact, Caring.com, a website that provides resources to caregivers, says that caregiving is the single biggest source of stress for caregivers – even more so than their financial concerns and other family medical problems. Their physical and emotional health often suffer as a result.
“It’s all too common to attend to the needs of the person you’re caring for before your own, not realizing that you can’t be fully effective if you neglect your health,” says Marion Somers, PhD, who owned and directed a geriatric-care management service in Brooklyn, New York, for more than 30 years.
Here, she and other authorities on caregiving offer practical solutions to nine common challenges – physical, emotional and even financial – so you can keep up the good work without being worn down.
"I’m completely exhausted.”
Solution: Go for natural energy boosters - A good night’s sleep should top your list. Make healthy eating another priority. And set aside a few minutes each day for exercise. Sleep, good food and exercise should be non-negotiable parts of your daily routine, no matter what your caregiving duties bring.
“I’m overwhelmed by how much there is to do.”
Solution: Focus on what’s truly important, and be up-front about your limitations - Talk to the person you are caring for about your time and energy limitations. Although it might be tempting to tackle the easiest tasks first, it’s smarter to identify and do what absolutely must get done before you run out of steam. If you can’t reasonably get it all done, call in the help of family and friends, or hire someone.
“Seeing my loved one this way makes me sad.”
Solution: Give yourself some downtime, and focus on the positive - It’s crucial to give your brain and body a chance to recharge. “Even stealing five minutes to put on music in the car or call a friend when you’re out getting groceries is better than nothing,” says Somers.
It’s natural to be saddened by a difficult situation, but making a conscious choice to find the positive can do your heart and mind a world of good. But even the most positive person may not be able to prevent a situation from taking a heavy toll. If you’ve been feeling blue for more than two weeks, talk to your doctor; you may have clinical depression, which should be treated.
"It’s hard to always be the bearer of bad news.”
Solution: Pick another point person. Most of the time, you shouldn’t be the messenger of health news - For example, if your father can’t drive anymore, the doctor should tell him.
“My body hurts more now that I am a caregiver.”
Solution: Get more help from the person you’re caring for - Have her do as much as she’s able, even if she can’t do it perfectly or it takes three times as long. Not allowing a person to do for themselves creates what’s called “excess disability,” because it decreases their abilities and self-esteem.
“I take on tasks that probably aren’t safe for me.”
Solutions: Get a reality check about your limits - Create a list of the caregiving tasks you do, and look at them objectively or run them by a trusted friend. Then ask a family member or hire a home health aide to help with tasks you shouldn’t be doing.
“I spend a lot of money on the person I care for.”
Solution: Keep finances separate. If you can’t, document expenses - Don’t use your own money when going on caregiving errands, such as picking up prescriptions, thinking you’ll get reimbursed later. Instead, if the person you’re caring for has a source of income, such as a pension or Social Security payment, use that money first. If you must use your own money, keep track by recording items and their costs. A written record is useful when asking other family members to share the financial responsibilities.
“I feel cut off from the rest of the world.”
Solution: Make social activities a priority - Get out of the house at least once a day – even if it's just to walk to the corner store. Ask friends, neighbors or family members to come over to get some fresh air with you.
Seek out others in similar situations. Join an in-person or online support group for caregivers: visit Arthritis Foundation’s Live Yes community, Family Caregiver Alliance or Share the Care.
“I feel burned out.”
Solution: Share the load - Depending on the level of care you loved one needs, it’s probably impossible for one person to do all the caregiving. Make a list of your duties, then delegate as many as possible. Ask someone else to take grandma to church. Don’t feel guilty about doing less – you’ll be a better caregiver because of it.
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