(BPT) - If you're one of the 53 million Americans who are caregivers for a relative or friend, you already know it’s a challenging job that often goes unrecognized. But you also know something others may not: Caring for a friend or family member can be one of the most rewarding things you’ve ever done in your life. You're spending every day giving them the personalized care and attention they deserve. You're doing for them what you hope someone will do for you one day when you need it — showing love and compassion through your everyday actions.
To make the most of your time caring for your loved one, it’s important to care for yourself as well, so you'll be at your best and able to enjoy the time you have with them as much as possible. Fortunately, there are many positive steps you can take to not only get rest and respite when you need it, but also to embrace your role as the most important person in their life right now.
Here are tips and resources to support your own self-care, and to reaffirm the important work you do every day.
Find a community of caregivers
Whether it’s an online group or in-person support, being able to communicate and share with other caregivers who understand your daily experiences can help you keep your spirits up when things are difficult and celebrate when things are going well. Ask your hospital’s social work office for referrals, or check out the Administration for Community Living at ACL.gov and the Family Caregiver Alliance at Caregiver.org to find support groups. PowerfulToolsForCaregivers.org is another great resource.
Reframe your time with your loved one
When was the last time you and the person you care for just sat outside and enjoyed the sunshine, played a favorite game, or watched a movie together? Make time to do things that you both enjoy. Look for solutions if previous activities are difficult. If reading a favorite book is hard for your loved one, read aloud to them — or try an audiobook so you can both take a break and just listen.
Take care of yourself
You know you have more energy and enthusiasm when you take good care of yourself, but it’s all too easy to deprioritize your own needs when you’re a caregiver. Make sure you’re getting a full night’s sleep, eating well and moving your body at least a few days a week.
Caregiving can be physically taxing, which is especially difficult if you already experience pain, such as osteoarthritis (OA), the most common type of arthritis. If you experience stiffness and pain in your joints, you may find it hard to get moving some days. To relieve OA pain, try Voltaren Arthritis Pain Gel, the first prescription-strength, over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory gel that targets arthritis pain at the source. The active ingredient in Voltaren Gel, diclofenac sodium, is an effective medicine clinically proven to relieve joint pain due to arthritis. You apply it directly at the site of arthritis pain to deliver pain relief in the hand, wrist, elbow, foot, ankle or knee.
Share the care
Find ways to share caregiving tasks with friends, family members or community groups such as your house of worship or an organization dedicated to the condition of your loved one. Be specific when asking for help. For example: “I need help filling out some forms,” “Can you pick up these five things at the grocery store tomorrow?” or “Could you visit with her for two hours while I go run some errands?” Try to include friends, family and support group members in celebrations like birthdays and holidays, as the more social interactions you and your loved one have, the more you both will benefit.
Don’t do it alone
If you need more assistance than friends or family can provide, seek help from trained home health care aides or other professionals. Your loved one’s insurance may cover these and other services, so it’s worth contacting Medicare.gov and any supplemental insurance they may have. You can also visit the Eldercare Locator for help with transportation, meals, adult day care and more.
Celebrate the important and valuable work you do every day, and know you are appreciated.