Rest

"...I was so tired until I had reached the point of not caring whether he was "properly" cared for or not - I had to be absent from the grind of caregiving..." - a Caregiver


It is extremely important that you get your rest. At times that will seem impossible, but it is absolutely necessary if you are going to help someone over a long period. Without rest, you become so fatigued that you more easily become sick and depressed. You may even begin to lose confidence and doubt yourself. Over time, lack of rest will prevent you from being an effective Caregiver and you can end up sacrificing yourself, your family and your friends.


What is rest? We're not talking here about a vacation or long weekend trip, although both could be important. We're also not talking about whatever time you may have to sleep at night. Your daily rest as a Caregiver is different. It's that time when you are not in active "Caregiver mode", when you can think about or do something else that does not demand your attention. It may be reading a book, watching some TV, listening to music, but it will be something special to you. Not everyone is wired the same. So what may be restful to some, might be stressful to another.


It must, however, be relaxing. You're not going to get much rest watching the news, even if you do enjoy that kind of thing. Some people need something completely mindless, like looking out over a forest or listening to the ocean surf. Others just need to do anything that's different, like playing a guitar or taking a drive.


So how do you get that rest?


Figure out what gives you rest. There should be several things, but remember that everyone is different. So don't let someone make you do what just happens to give them rest.


Plan your day. Don't detail every little thing, but make it a point first thing in the morning to sit down with pen and paper, and sketch out (i) what needs to be done, (ii) the time in the day you hope to get them accomplished, and (iii) the best chances you have to schedule some time for rest. Will you get this every day? No. But one thing is certain. If you don't plan for rest, you won't get any.


Ask for help. It's hard for most of us to ask for help, but this is one time when we have to humble ourselves a bit and just do it. Call on family or ask a friend. If you belong to a church or have a special group, contact them. Let them know you need their help just for a little while. Remember that this is as much for the person you're helping as for you. But what if the one you're helping doesn't want to be left with someone else? More on that later, but getting rest doesn't mean you have to leave. Get someone to stop by for an hour or two. Simply having someone else around can lift much of the strain and stress. You can relax a little, and with that, comes some rest.


Contact special assistance groups. Sometimes you need to be away for a longer period, maybe even an entire day or more. Do some research. Call the health care professionals and organizations that specialize in the area you're dealing with, for example Muscular Dystrophy, American Cancer Society, MS Society, Celebrate Recovery, Crohns and Colitis Foundation, and Alzheimer's Support, to name just a few. They can often recommend a variety of assistance groups, organizations, businesses, and individuals, such as social workers, visiting nurses, home health aides, adult day care centers, respite centers, senior centers, hospital overnight services and community mental health centers.


Contact home care agencies. Sometimes you don't need to get away. You just need some help with the care you're giving. Check out your resources and you'll find that a variety of help will come to your home for a certain number of hours a day and perform different tasks. These can include escort and transportation, meal delivery, bathing, toileting, moving the person from a bed to a chair if needed, dressing, feeding, taking vital signs, exercising, as well as household work such as general housecleaning, shopping, cooking, and even secretarial duties.


Don't think you're the only one who can help. It is common for Caregivers to fall into the trap of thinking they are the only ones who can provide the care that's needed. Sometimes that's because of the demands from the one they are helping. Sometimes it's because they feel guilty if they are not constantly at the person's side. But the truth is that if the Caregiver doesn't get enough rest, the quality of care being provided will suffer. And eventually, so will the person to be helped! Do your research. Check skills, backgrounds and knowledge. If special instructions or information is a part of your situation, then pass that along. But get rest, so you can come back and provide the care the person needs.