What does it mean to be a family caregiver?
On the face of it, the caring routines are relatively straightforward, but if you don’t make time to look after yourself too well as a family caregiver, fatigue coupled with stress will affect your ability to care for your loved one effectively.
Five things to keep in mind:
- Get support from the volunteers.
- Make sure you get rest and sleep, whenever you can.
- Make sure that you eat and drink properly and at regular intervals.
- Try to use the quiet spaces in the Cottage Hospice.
- Talk to the volunteers about what you’re going through as caregiver.
Asking for support
Asking for support, even if it’s just talking to a volunteer as a sounding board, makes good sense to most people. But it’s easy get caught up in thinking that asking for support, help or advice makes you a bit inadequate. You shouldn’t feel inadequate because, “asking for help means you’re wise, not weak.”
Family, friends and neighbours might be willing to help at home while you are away in the Cottage Hospice. You may have a dog which needs walking; a school run to do, and you need food, drinks and fresh clothes for yourself and your loved one. Often people will be pleased to help if you ask them.
When should you rest?
Your loved one needs you to be as fresh and alert as possible, so you can care properly for them. To an extent, within the limits of their illness, if you’re relaxed, so are they. Try to get your rest when your loved one rests – at this stage they will be sleeping more and more. You can also ask visitors to leave, so you can both sleep. Or ask friends or family to give you a break so that you can get some rest.
Important: Try to get your rest when your loved one rests, so you can be as fresh and alert as possible when caring for them.
The Cottage Hospice feels more like home than a hospital and there are spaces where you can take time to reflect. The garden is lovely: if the weather is OK, you might enjoy relaxing in it.
What about eating and drinking properly?
You can be so focused on helping your loved one to eat and drink that you lose track of your own needs. Remember that regular food helps you to keep going. You could ask family to bring in a nice meal for you, and the Café at the Cottage Hospice has food and it’s open 24/7.
Can you talk about what you’re going through as family caregiver?
Sometimes family caregivers feel as though part of their ‘role’ is to shield other people from the sad news about your loved one. This leads to people keeping their worries and concerns to themselves and struggling on, but this can make things worse. The trouble is, the burden of care can build up. This may mean you become more stressed and less patient, with your loved one and everyone else.
Our advice is to share the burden and ask the volunteers for practical solutions. The Cottage Hospice team are here for you. You can think out about talking with the counsellors or the Chaplaincy team who are based at the Hospice in Pembury. And you could say hello to other family caregivers in the atrium and Café at the Cottage Hospice and share caring experiences, if they are willing.
All patients, families, carers and family caregivers can access counselling and support, regardless of which other Hospice services they are using. You can get in touch with the Hospice in the Weald Counselling and Support Service, or the Chaplaincy team, on the details below.