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Dr Russ Blog - Of Caregiving and Balance
Of Caregiving and Balance
Created on 6/12/2009

K writes in to say she seems to have suffered some health issues related to caring for a family member day and night for a number of years, and she wonders what she can do to keep herself well.

Caregiving is the work of angels, people who put aside their own dreams and desires to support those whom they love who are in need of daily and consistent care. It is fulfilling work, but it is also very challenging for most. The challenges come in different forms, but a prominent one for caregivers is a challenge to their own overall health.

The data are clear in this regard - caregivers who do not find ways to care for themselves suffer physically and emotionally, even spiritually. The key is to get comfortable with the ideas of boundaries and of seeking help when you need it.

How can one create boundaries when a loved one is in need of our assistance? Truth be told, your loved one doesn't want you to suffer - they greatly appreciate your attention, even when it may not seem that way, and they want you to have some enjoyment, too. Some things to consider:

- the next time a friend or family member asks if they can help you, say YES (maybe they can simply sit in the house while your loved one naps so you can get out for a while, or do the dishes for you while you catch some much-needed rest).
- look into the variety of organizations in the community that help care for people in their own homes. There are volunteer organizations that vet the people working with them, and there are businesses that send assistance to caregivers. Even if you don't have the funds for regular home health care, try to bring someone trusted into the house at least once a week for everyone's benefit, especially your own. 
- set a proper expectation - speak to your loved one and let them know that you will be taking some time for your self so that you can be even better at caring for them.
- for loved ones living outside your home make certain they know they can call you any time for an urgent matter, but there are times when your own space needs to be honored.
- don't neglect the basics - get your regular medical and dental checkups.
- explore new methods of stress reduction (breathing exercises, laughter, etc.) and exercise regularly, even if you have to do so by using a tape in the home so as not to leave your loved one.
- know that you are not alone. There are local and national groups available that offer assistance to caregivers just like you.

Health is a matter of balance, and when one part of our existence is pulled it pulls on every part of our existence. The key to maintaining health is maintaining balance.

Please don't feel guilty about taking time for your self when you are regularly caring for a loved one in need - doing so may help ensure that you will be well and at your best for years to come, and thus be able to support those in need for as long as possible.

Good luck, K. I hope this is of help, that your family member gets better soon, and that you might all be well.
Dr. Russ

** Information on this web site is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician or other healthcare professional. You should not use the information on this web site for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing any medication or other treatment. **

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