Today's article was written by one of my interns, Emily Baine. Emily is a senior at Eastern Illinois University studying Family and Consumer Sciences.
When you spend quality time with one of your parents, you never really think, "Hey, I might be their caregiver one day."
This caregiving role is a huge responsibility for a person to take on. I personally took on this role for my grandfather when he moved into my family's home when I was about 16. At the time, I had no idea what an impact it would have on my sisters and me, nor my parents as well.
As I look back, it was very emotionally draining to have to take care of someone who was older than I was. That said, I would never take back that time of my life, and I am very proud of being able to say that I took care of my grandfather when no one else could.
Caregiving is no small task, and it can't be done without giving it your full effort.
A father, mother, grandparent or friend is depending on you to take care of them when they might not be able to. They are entrusting in you that you will support them and give them a quality of life that they have become accustomed too.
While this responsibility is an honorable one, it can make a huge impact on your life and turn your world upside down. Making sure you are taking care of yourself is important not only for you, but also for the person you're caring for.
The National Institute on Aging provides caregivers some tips to make sure they are taking care of themselves while taking care of someone else:
— Ask for help when you need it: Don't be scared or feel ashamed to ask family or friends for help. Even if it's making food, cleaning or running errands.
— Join a caregivers support group: Find a local support group in your area where you can talk to other caregivers about how you're feeling.
— Take a break: get some coffee, sit and read a book, watch TV. Whatever you do, make sure that it makes you happy. Take a few moments to refocus and rejuvenate yourself.
— Spend time with friends: Have a night out on the town or lunch with friends. Get your mind off your caregiving responsibilities and focus on the moment at hand.
— Keep up with hobbies and interests: If you have a hobby, that can be one thing that you do for yourself.
— Exercise: Taking a walk or going to the gym can be a great stress reliever while keeping up on your personal health.
— Regular doctor visits: Talk to your doctor about the caregiving responsibilities you have and tell that person any concerns you are having about your health.
While you are making sure that you are taking care of yourself, it will, in turn, affect the care-receiver as well. They will be getting a better quality of care because you are refreshed and ready to help your loved one in any way you can.
As I have stated, this is no light task, and it is something that you can look back on and be extremely proud of what you have done.
Extension is currently developing a texting program, so health and wellness tips can be sent to your fingertips via your phone. To sign up for weekly text messages about self-care and other wellness topics, sign up for our texting program, Extending Wellness. This texting program will cover a variety of topics that could benefit the user and improve their all-around wellness. Follow this link to learn more, go.illinois.edu/wellnesstips. Once the program goes live, Extension will email you more information.
For more information on family-life-related topics and programs, visit our local University of Illinois Extension website at http://web.extension.illinois.edu/cfiv/ or contact Chelsey Byers Gerstenecker at 217-333-7672 or firstname.lastname@example.org.