Caring for the Caregiver
November is National Caregivers Month
Are you one of the 46 million people in the U.S. who are caring for an ailing family member or close friend? Being a “caregiver” can be emotionally, physically, and financially stressful. Research from the National Family Caregivers Alliance shows that family caregivers can suffer from poor health and up to 50% of all caregivers report feeling depressed.
So what can you do? The Ken Hamilton Caregivers Center at Northern Westchester Hospital offers a few suggestions to help you reduce your stress:
“Friendly” Help. Friends and family want to provide meaningful support, but many caregivers don’t want to impose. This may leave family and friends feeling helpless, so letting them help is a gift, as it allows them to feel useful. Designate one friend/family member to coordinate the support you need. This includes grocery shopping, picking up the kids, mowing the lawn, cooking dinners, etc. Long distance friends and family members can assist by conducting research, arranging delivery of prepared meals, and simply being there for a phone call when you need support.
The “Me” Factor. Often caregivers forget to care for themselves. This may mean not eating properly, losing sleep, skipping work-outs, and canceling doctor visits. It is essential to take time out for yourself—even for something as trivial as going to the hair salon or to a ball game. Taking time to recharge your battery will allow you to be a better caregiver to your loved one.
Talking to Your Loved One. It’s never easy talking about end-of-life issues with an ailing loved one, but it’s important to complete a Health Care Proxy that documents their end of life wishes and designates a healthcare agent. Working together to prepare this document before someone is seriously ill helps them to feel in control and makes it much easier to respect their wishes.
Support from a Professional. At the Ken Hamilton Caregiver Center at Northern Westchester Hospital, we understand how difficult it can be caring for an ailing loved one. The Center has a dedicated team of professionals and volunteers who provide support and guidance at no charge. Please call us at 914-242-8128 to learn more about our available services or stop by and visit for yourself.
It’s important to understand your loved one’s medical condition and not feel intimidated about asking questions. Being prepared is one of the best tools for successfully managing their care, so consider the following when visiting physicians:
• Do your own research and develop questions in advance to review with the physician.
• Write down the answers—and don’t be shy about asking to clarify any information that may be unclear.
• Get copies of all tests and scans. Keep everything organized and dated for future reference.
• Remember that it is OK to call the physician after the visit with additional questions—They’re here to help.