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9 Ways to Make Caregiving Easier

Do's and don'ts to keep things running smoothly

  • Don't forego sleep. No one — not even you — can function when sleep deprived. Sleep loss cripples your ability to concentrate, solve problems and remember. Try to get eight hours a night. Nap when the person you're caring for does. Ask someone to come over for a few hours or take Mom to a respite care program at a center for an afternoon. She may enjoy it. And you'll be much better.
  • Do find time for yourself. Join a book club or other activity that brings you joy. Even if you've only read the prologue, keeping up with the activities and relationships that stimulate your mind and soul is essential. And remember to exercise. It not only keeps the body in shape, it keeps the brain sharp, too. If you can't get to the gym, buy a DVD of a yoga or exercise class. Ask a friend to pinch hit for you while you walk or jog for 30 minutes. Find ways to make it happen.
  • Don't neglect your family. Yes, your aging parent needs you, but so does your spouse. Consider hiring a night caregiver a few times a month so you can go for dinner and a movie or better yet, an overnight vacation. Explain the situation to your children so they understand your schedule and try to find special time to be with them and your friends.
  • Do learn your options. If your caregiving responsibilities become too much to handle with your job, consider adjusting your work schedule if possible. Employees covered under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act may be able to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave per year to care for relatives. Check with HR about options for leave or flextime, job-sharing or telecommute policies that could make your life easier.
  • Don't overlook the benefits. Though caregiving has myriad challenges, it also offers many rewards: Most caregivers agree that the experience strengthened their relationship with a parent. It often brings both caregiver and parent to a new level of understanding in their relationship even if it was a strained connection over the years. You know you're doing the right thing and you have the opportunity to give back to a parent who gave so much to you. Take a few moments each day to reflect on the positive aspects of being a caregiver.

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