Eight Steps to Less Stressful Caregiving

Taking care of a loved one with special needs can be exhausting and stressful. Often due to the lack of outside help, a devotion to the person needing care, or the tunnel vision that can accompany exhaustion, caretakers don’t take care of themselves.

But they must. Failure to do so can lead to burnout, injury or illness. If you are the caregiver, any of these results will harm your ability to care for your loved one.

Here are some ways to take care of yourself and make sure you can take care of your loved one. The list is adapted from New York Times columnist Jane Brody’s excellent Nov. 17, 2008, column, “Caring for Family, Caring for Yourself.”

1) Take a Break Every Day 
Make sure you have some “down time” to relax, whether it’s watching television, reading the newspaper, or calling a friend. Make sure you do at least one thing for yourself every day.
 
2) Take a Break Every Week
If possible, get out of the house at least once a week to do something you want to do — go to the movies, have dinner with friends, whatever works for you. If you cannot get someone to cover for you, have friends over to your house.
 
3) Get Respite 
Take a break of at least a week at least once a year. You can hire help in the house or arrange for a close friend or family member to take your loved one into their home.
 
4) Get Regular Exercise 
It’s necessary for your health and to moderate any stress you may be feeling. If you can’t get out of the house to exercise, buy or rent a stationary bicycle or other exercise equipment.
 
5) Eat Well  
Make sure you stay healthy and have sufficient energy to do what you need to for your loved one.
 
6) Get Enough Sleep 
Lack of sleep will sap your patience and reserves, making it more difficult for you to provide the care you would like to give your loved one.
 
7) Join a Support Group 
While you may or may not be in this alone, you’re not the only one in this situation. Others are going through similar experiences. Here are sources for finding support groups: the National Family Caregivers Association (www.nfcacares.org) and its Community Action Network (www.thefamilycaregiver.org), and the Family Caregiver Alliance and its online support group (www.caregiver.org).
 
8 ) Consult with a Special Needs Planner  
In order to access many of the programs that can help your family member, such as SSI and Medicaid, they will have to qualify financially. A special needs planning attorney such as Evan H. Farr can help you qualify for these benefits. For further information, please click here.

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