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If you have professional home care services in place, clinicians want to hear your feedback. After all, you are the one who knows what's going on when they're not there. If you have a concern, raise it—more often than not, your instincts are correct and your health care providers can help improve the situation.
It's ironic, but taking care of someone in the home has become increasingly difficult as more medical technologies become available. You shouldn't expect to know how to do things without training. You will need to be taught how to change dressings on wounds, how to move your family member without hurting your back, and how to ensure your family member is taking his or her medications correctly. This can involve creating reminder systems or putting hard-to-swallow pills in more palatable forms.
Daily caregiving can be demanding, overwhelming, and isolating. If someone offers to help, accept. Visit www.sharethecare.org to see how people pool their efforts to help ease the burden on family caregivers as well as help those without family nearby.
Try to get some exercise every day, even if it means a few short walks or doing a yoga videotape in your living room. Keep your own doctor's appointments—many caregivers are so busy taking their family members to appointments that they don't take care of their own health. Remember to get a flu shot, a cholesterol screening, blood pressure check, and other annual exams.
There are many programs that provide respite care, or a break for caregivers, each week, so you can get your hair done, go to a movie with a friend, or go to the gym. Your local Area Agency on Aging may have resources to bring in a home attendant, or you may be able to place your family member in an adult day care program.
Connecting with others in your situation can be the best way to manage your own emotions and prevent "burnout" and depression. If you can't leave your family member at home, join a telephone support group like the one offered by VNSNY—you can still have a strong connection to other caregivers without having to arrange more care.
For more information and a list of helpful resources please call the Visiting Nurse Service of New York at: 1-800-675-0391.