Are you ready for 2021’s New Year’s Resolution for family caregivers? Then please say the following aloud: “I, (name), a caregiver for (name), pledge to make 2021 the year for discovering new resources and support. This will help me decrease my stress, increase my skills, and boost my enthusiasm for caregiving.”
Sound good? Let’s do a little brainstorming on the many ways family caregivers like you can get the support you need while balancing your non-caregiver responsibilities. Don’t wait to reach out until you are stressed out and burned out.
Sure, if you are relatively new to caregiving, you might think that you can handle it and don’t need any help. But take it from your battle-scarred brothers and sisters – if your caregiving duties are more than a short-term commitment, it’s wise to address the causes of caregiver burnout by lining up some long-term support.
How to Find a Support Group
One of the most frustrating aspects of being a family caregiver is that you feel like nobody really understands what you are going through. Yes, your brother or aunt or best friend may express their sincere appreciation and admiration for your tireless efforts. However, they go back to their lives, whether it’s across town or thousands of miles away. This might leave you feeling quite alone. Participating in a community where you feel understood is one of the attractions of joining a caregiver support group.
When you find the right group, you can develop relationships with people who share the same challenges you face as a caregiver. You can speak freely about the burdens you are facing – and the guilt you may feel for even considering it a burden! Joining a support group can not only help you let go of caregiver guilt, but also provide a sense of belonging, mutual support, and camaraderie with those within the group. On top of the sense of camaraderie, you can swap tips on how to cope, learn where to acquire new skills, and feel like you are part of a collective of like-minded individuals.
Here are some ideas on finding the right group for caregiver support:
1. Find a National Family Caregiver Support Program.
Have you heard about the Administration for Community Living? Their mission is, “Improving the lives of older adults and people with disabilities through services, research.” The National Family Caregiver Support Program (NFCSP) is one of their offerings. The NFCSP gives grants that support family caregivers and works to help older Americans age in place, within their own homes and communities.
Among this organization’s many services are:
- Providing information to caregivers about the various types of services that are available
- Helping caregivers tap these services
- Offering one-on-one counseling
- Organizing support groups
- Delivering caregiver training
The NFCSP works alongside communities across the country. Studies reveal their services can help with the depression, anxiety, and stress that caregivers often experience.
2. Visit websites of organizations that provide support for your loved one’s condition.
One of the best ways to find a good caregiver support group is to visit the website of organizations that support disease research and provide services. For example, the Alzheimer’s Association offers extensive resources for in-person support groups and online communities.
The Alzheimer’s Association has peer-to-peer as well as professionally directed caregiver groups. Every support group is coordinated by someone who has received training.
You might also wish to explore ALZconnected®, an online community with message boards designed for those who’ve been impacted by dementia. Caregivers visit the site to make inquiries, receive guidance, and learn about options for support.
3. Utilize the many caregiver resources available.
The National Family Caregiver Support Program is also a clearinghouse for a valuable variety of caregiver support services, including:
- Community Resource Finder. This is a site that helps people with dementia as well as their caregivers explore community-based programs.
- ARCH –The National Respite Locator Service. ARCH is a resource for family caregivers to connect with respite services.
- Caregiver Corner. This is a site that offers numerous links and a wealth of resources designed to answer everyday questions caregivers have.
- Family Caregiver Alliance. The Family Caregiver Alliance is a site where you can find out about programs that support caregivers.
- National Alliance for Caregiving. Here, you can dig into publications and online resources just for caregivers. Discover books, websites, videos, and more.
4. Make the most of technology.
Once upon a time, services like online banking, shopping, and app-based grocery store delivery may have seemed like a luxury. Now, technology options for caregivers are lifesavers. You can load apps for your bank, favorite grocery store, takeout delivery, and shopping options that will help you keep your eye on the person you’re caring for.
5. Ask your family and friends for support.
Even if you volunteered to be a solo caregiver for your loved one, that doesn’t mean you couldn’t use a little help now and then. Do yourself a favor: Ask for help before you need it. (If you already need it, stop reading this article and send an SOS now!)
Remember, caregiving was never meant to be a solo act. To be successful in the long run, you’re going to need teamwork like this:
- Create a tag team. If you’re the primary caregiver, that’s fine. But schedule regular breaks for yourself or maybe divvy up the duties with a local sibling, relative, or friend. (One way to decide who does what is to consider where you and the rest of the team excel.)
- If the secondary caregiver has limited time, consider having them come in once a week for an hour so you can take a walk or a nap.
- We now live in the time of video conferencing. That means that an out of town caregiver can play a key role. How about a weekly video call?
- A long-distance caregiver might also take charge of online shopping chores!
6. Consider professional home care services.
Home care services from professional organizations like Home Care Assistance can be a godsend for family caregivers who need a break. At Home Care Assistance, we specialize in flexible care designed to fit a family’s needs. You’ll find a summary of our services here.
In closing, here’s to a new year with new insights and new possibilities that will make your time as a caregiver more rewarding.