A caregiver is a person who provides care for another individual, usually for reasons of health, age, or disability. The physical and mental demands of caregiving can be daunting, and it has been suggested that as many as six million Americans provide care to seniors and those with disabilities.
Dr. Joon Faii Ong has first-hand experience caring for Parkinson’s patients and gives some tips for those caring for loved ones with Parkinson’s at home.
People who suffer from the disease Parkinson’s are often put in a situation where they cannot be cared for by themselves anymore because their motor skill has either deteriorated or completely stopped working. When this happens, family members often have to step up and care for these loved ones on top of their full-time job.
As a physician, Dr. Ong knows first hand about the toll that caregiving can take on the family caregiver, frequently leading to depression or complete burnout. As Parkinson’s usually progresses slowly over many years, these stresses are only exacerbated by the long-term effects of caregiving.
The good news is that there are ways for family caregivers to manage the stress associated with being a caregiver. Dr. Ong offers these simple tips that anyone can do to improve their well-being while caring for their loved ones:
1) Get enough sleep, eat healthily, and exercise regularly
It’s important not to neglect your physical health while taking care of a loved one. Try to get at least 6 hours of sleep a night, exercise daily, and have a healthy diet.
2) Keep in touch with family and friends
Don’t shut yourself off from the outside world by only concentrating on your loved one. Instead, remember to make time for special events, visit family often and keep up with your favorite hobbies.
3) Be certain to take care of yourself
Sometimes, family caregivers feel that they don’t deserve any time for themselves. It’s important to make sure that you do what is necessary for your mental well-being; go out with friends, watch a movie or play games on the computer.
4) Learn how to communicate effectively
Make sure that your loved one with Parkinson’s understands what you are saying. Be concise in your speech and try to avoid jumping from one topic to another quickly.
5) Find support groups for caregivers
There are many different support groups available for family caregivers, spouses of patients, and other supporters who want to learn more about how they can help.
6) Learn new skills to help your loved one cope with their disease
Family caregivers need to learn how to deal with the frustrations of Parkinson’s so that they can get through difficult times. With early diagnosis and proper management, these negative behaviors can often be stopped before they begin.
7) Take care of yourself first
Many family caregivers take care of loved ones with Parkinson’s all day and then spend the rest of their time taking care of chores around the house. You must make time for yourself as well. Otherwise, your own health will begin to suffer.
8) Avoid power struggles
It is common for family caregivers to deal with their loved ones suffering from Parkinson’s Disease. Try not to engage in arguments with them, as it will only lead to frustration on both sides. However, if you find that an argument starts up often, try avoiding that discussion subject.