Hospice of Huntington’s Top Tips for Caregivers
Take care of yourself first
- Accept help. When people say, “Is there anything I can do for you?” have a list ready and ASK. You do not have to do this alone.
- Rest. Take advantage of the time your loved one is resting. Take a nap, or read a book, call a friend. Do something for yourself. Get 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night. If your duties won’t allow that make sure you nap during the day.
- Don’t sweat the small stuff. No one cares what your house looks like. They know you have been busy, so don’t wear yourself out cleaning or worry what others will think when they visit.
- Exercise. Make the time. You don’t have to go to the gym or spend a lot of time to get the benefit of exercise. Start small. Commit to a certain time of day and spend 5 minutes stretching, bending and jogging in place. Increase the time and variation of the exercise in 5 minute increments. Go for a walk when you can. Find an exercise buddy to help with your commitment. It will make a difference.
- Eat well. Maintain your own health by eating a well balanced diet. Plan your menu a week ahead of time so that you can buy groceries for the week and you do not have stress planning what to eat each night.
Tips for taking care of your loved one
- Shared activities. Find a shared activity with your loved one. It may be looking through old picture albums, knitting, watching old movies or reading a book together. Making time for these activities normalizes the relationship. It is difficult to be a caregiver to a close family member when all you talk about or do revolves around the illness.
- Shared memories. Talk about old times together. It gives the patient a sense of self-worth and it will comfort you both to remember good times. Don’t dwell on the sad or difficult times. Ask those questions you know only your loved one knows about. Once they are gone you will be glad you took the time to ask. So many times people who have lost a parent or grandparent say they wish they had thought to ask a question about the old days because now that history is lost to their family.
- Anticipate needs. Find a comfortable routine and prepare items ahead of time for bathing and mealtime. Even sick people like to know what to expect. You will be less stressed if you schedule a certain time for bath and meals and rest time.
- Keep a care journal. Keep a small journal (nothing fancy, a notebook will work). Write down medications given, bathroom habits and meals taken. Write down any changes you have noted in pain levels, symptoms, falls, appetite changes or confusion. Report these changes to your doctor or hospice worker.
- Have a back-up plan. Line up family members or friends that can come over in case you have an emergency and need to leave the house suddenly. For longer term needs, Hospice of Huntington patients can schedule up to five (5) days of respite at the Emogene Dolin Jones Hospice House so that the caregiver can get a break from caregiving duties.
- Learn. how to do certain tasks like bed baths or transferring from bed to chair or emptying a catheter bag from experts like your hospice worker.