The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

July 6, 2011

Teresa Rife, columnist: Caregivers should care for selves, too

By Teresa Rife
Special to The Globe

JOPLIN, Mo. — Many of us will become caregivers at some point and time in our lives. The caregivers must often provide care under complex circumstances, often balancing the concerns of their own immediate families, their careers, and their responsibility for elderly care giving.  Often the caregiver is so busy and so involved in taking care of a loved one that they forget about taking care of themselves.

Taking care of oneself is important to the entire process. All too frequently, caregivers are unwilling, perhaps ashamed to ask for help because they think this is a sign of weakness, they may even see as failure. The caregivers cannot be expected to do it all. Caregivers are very vulnerable to the long-term depression emotional stress and spiritual well-being and loneliness.

It is very important to set limits, to provide effective care, and to make sure you take care of yourself. Some things you can do to reduce stress and ones spiritual well-being include getting enough sleep and exercise, eating a well-balanced diet, and taking regular short and long term breaks.

And be sure to allow others and/or agencies to take over for you in the form of respite. Caregiving is a job and respite is your earned right. Reward yourself with respite breaks often. Watch out for signs of depression, and do not delay in getting professional help when you need it. When people offer to help, accept the offer, and suggest specific things that they can do.

Just remember that the Area Agency on Aging has Respite care, Homemaker Services and Personal Care Services available. Call me at 417-781-7562 for more information.

Teresa Rife is the family caregiver coordinator for Area Agency on Aging Region X.