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  • Kateri Spinella

National Family Caregivers Month

“There are only four kinds of people in the world. Those who have been caregivers. Those who are currently caregivers. Those who will be caregivers, and those who will need a caregiver.” – Rosalyn Carter

As we prepare to celebrate Caregivers Month, we acknowledge the work that they do across the country, we gain an understanding that each of us is affected. For millions of us, there will come a day when we will need the support of a person who helps us do our daily activities of staying clean, fed and healthy.

That is thanks to the work of millions more who care for the elderly persons, home-bound adults or disabled children, making certain that their needs are met and that they feel the compassion provided to them. Compassion through hours of providing the day to day needs that person they care for needs along with essential extras - a smile, a hug, a prayer and always a sense that the caring will be there tomorrow and for all of the tomorrows they have together.

All of this love and support comes at a cost - to the caregiver. If you are in the role of caring for another's needs, you appreciate the phrase "burnout" as part of the cost of what you do. The hours of lifting, cooking and cleaning while always providing the warmth of hope lead to fatigue and often guilt for wanting to get care for their own needs.

Below are ways caregivers can gain strength for their duty to others and for caring for themselves. If you provide care for someone, please read through them and take them to heart. If you are receiving aid from someone else, please pass them along to that caregiver to honor the work they do today and tomorrow.

Take care of yourself physically:

Make sure to breathe and take life more slowly so you are not overwhelmed by the work and emotions that come with caregiving. Get the rest and sleep you need, no excuses. If you take in caffeine you may want to reduce your use of this so you can more easily rest.

While resting, get your mind off of the day to day - read a book, listen to relaxing music or return to your favorite hobby to keep your mind fresh. Perhaps exercise is your way of relaxing - go to it! Watch out for your own nutritional needs and get the food and vitamins you need each day.

Let go of the guilt that you cannot do everything all of the time. Occasionally you may have to say no to new obligations or ask for flexibility in the work you do. Caregivers should avoid their service becoming something for a 'to-do' list item which only makes it harder to provide comforting care. Be careful to avoid that sense that your care is a 'ball and chain' you must endure.

Spend time for conversations with friends and your own support crew. Share some time and laughs with them at least every day. If this is unavailable to you - join a caregiver support group or take time for prayer.

November gives us all the opportunity to see ourselves in the world of caregiving. Whether you are giving or receiving support for your day, be mindful that each caregiver needs support, too.

George Valentine

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