The Caregiving Role: A Meaningful Quality of Life
This article was updated on: 09/19/2017
If caregiving for a chronically-ill loved one is one of your roles, it can be difficult to maintain a healthy quality of life. It’s easy to become so immersed in the caregiver role that you forget to take care of yourself. Caregiving can be both emotionally rewarding and draining, and finding balance is essential to your mental and physical health. Here are some tips to help you find that balance and quality of life.
What are my rights in a caregiving role?
The American Heart Association lists nine caregiving rights to help maintain your quality of life. You have the right to:
- Take care of yourself and not feel selfish for doing so.
- Recognize the limits of your endurance and get help when you need it.
- Have a life outside your caregiving
- Express difficult emotions such as feeling angry or depressed.
- Refuse to be manipulated by guilt.
- Be treated with affection, patience, and consideration by your loved one, and return those feelings in kind.
- Be proud of the caregivingwork you’re doing and the courage it takes to do it.
- Guard your individuality and interests, which will sustain you when caregivingis no longer your full-time role.
- Expect—and demand—that as progress is made treating chronic disease, similar efforts are given toward supporting those in caregiving
The Heart Association recommends writing these down and posting them where both you and your loved one can see them. This may help avoid conflict over your rights and open the door for better communication between you, your loved one, and other family members.
How can I reduce stress and improve my quality of life?
The Alzheimer’s Association offers practical suggestions to lower your stress level and maintain a better quality of life. Although the suggestions are prepared for caregivers of Alzheimer’s patients, the advice could be appropriate for anyone in a caregiving role.
- Learn everything you can about your loved one’s condition, prognosis, and what to expect as the disease progresses. Know what is required of you as a caregiver to manage tasks of daily living.
- Form a caregiver support team to help and support you in your caregiving Include family members, friends, neighbors, disease support group members, and health-care providers—anyone who can assist you and relieve your stress so you aren’t overwhelmed.
- Make financial and legal plans to handle health crises and disease progression to give you peace of mind before these events occur. Consider needs for long-term care, costs for medical care and supplies, and advanced directives or living wills as you consult with professionals to formulate your plans.
- Find out about respite care options in your community to give you a break. It’s also a good idea to look into other care services, such as home health aides, assisted living, and even hospice care if your loved one’s disease is worsening. Planning for these services in the beginning will help prevent overwhelming stress and caregiver burnout that so often accompanies a caregiving
The American Heart Association also recommends pacing yourself; caregiving is a marathon, not a sprint. Develop a schedule that includes time to take care of yourself and recharge your batteries on a regular basis