The stress of caring for a seriously or chronically ill senior can take its toll on a spouse. A study from the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center found little difference in quality of life between patients and spouses, but found significant differences based on the phase of their illness, specifically whether the patient was newly diagnosed, facing a recurrence or living with advanced disease. Couples coping with advanced disease had significantly poorer overall quality of life. Spouses reported lower confidence than patients in their ability to manage the illness, and more uncertainty about the illness; patients also reported more social support than did spouses. Exhausted. Anxious. Overwhelmed. If you are the caregiver of a loved one in MN with cancer or arthritis, it is likely that you relate to all of these emotions. Transportation to and from appointments around Minneapolis, frequent hospital stays, and the sheer scope and duration of the illness are challenges many caregivers of these patients face. What is a caregiver to do when they have little time to care for oneself? One solution is to get respite help. Home Instead Senior Care of Minneapolis CAREGivers are trained to provide specialized care for seniors with serious health issues such as Arthritis and Cancer and, based on our home care experience, offer the following tips and advice to family and professional caregivers.
4 Self-Care Tips for Caregivers of Cancer Patients
1. Invite others in.
As the primary caregiver, no one knows your loved one’s situation as intimately as you do. You may find it hard to break away or trust others to take your place, even in the simplest of tasks, but this is exactly why you should. Inviting a friend or family member to pitch in can be a breath of fresh air for all involved, and it gives you a much-needed break.
2. Delegate transportation.
Between treatments, doctor visits and follow-ups, a cancer patient’s calendar can be grueling to maintain alongside your other day-to-day responsibilities. Delegating your loved one’s transportation to and from appointments to a trusted third party may bring some relief to your strained schedule. If family and friends are not available, contact us to inquire about transportation services as a convenient alternative. We’ll even stay with the senior during the appointment and participate in the doctor’s consultation to take notes for you.
3. Take a coffee break.
Or, take a walk, do some yoga, or just do a little bit of nothing at all. No matter how busy and stress-filled the days get, taking quiet moments for yourself is essential to your wellbeing. As a caregiver, what is essential to your wellbeing is essential to your loved one’s wellbeing. Be intentional about carving out a few minutes several times a day to do something that refreshes you, however simple that something might be.
The work you are doing is hard work, but it is also good work. Yes, caring for a cancer patient can be physically, mentally and emotionally draining, but your efforts are vitally important. You are making a real, tangible difference in the life of someone you love. Don’t give up, but do take care of yourself.
More Than Joint Pain: Understanding Seniors and Arthritis
4 suggestions to help support a senior as they deal with the stress of living with arthritis pain:
1. Do your homework.
Did you know osteoarthritis pain usually worsens at the end of the day? Or that arthritis causes more activity limitation in its patients than cancer, heart disease or diabetes? Understanding basic facts about arthritis, as well as the individual symptoms and needs of a senior, is key to understanding the challenges of those who suffer from this disease. Taking a moment to read about types and symptoms of arthritis, maintaining an open dialogue with other members of your senior’s care team, and asking the senior questions about his or her arthritis pain will help you in your efforts to provide excellent care.
2. Put yourself in their shoes.
If you suffered from chronic arthritis-related pain, how would that affect your ability to go about a normal day? What struggles would you encounter in daily chores such as cooking meals, running errands or maintaining your home? Imagining your own life with arthritis can help you understand how everyday tasks can become painful challenges. As your senior discovers his or her problem areas, consider ways you can help provide solutions. Perhaps a home helper is in order or other non-medical services such as assistance with transportation, personal care, meal preparation or medication management.
3. Recommend appropriate, accessible fitness programs.
Regular exercise including stretching, aerobics and strength training can help reduce fatigue and improve strength and flexibility, according to the Arthritis Foundation. Exercising through chronic pain, however, can be intimidating for many senior arthritis sufferers. Encourage physical activity by helping the senior investigate programs at local fitness or community centers where he or she can exercise in a group setting with other seniors. Or, consider directing seniors and their family members to a resource like Get Mom Moving, an online program designed to keep seniors active in ways they enjoy most.
In this video, Dr. Eric Otterberg discusses tips for preventing and living with arthritis. Brought to you by Home Instead Senior Care and the Arthritis Foundation.
4. Be an encourager!
Make sure your senior patients know they are not alone. When you run across a program or piece of information they may find helpful, give them a call or drop it in the mail to them. When you see them, ask direct but gentle questions about their arthritis pain and how it affects their day-to-day activities. Simple gestures like these may not seem significant, but they communicate that the daily challenges facing your senior patient have not gone overlooked. Above all, encourage them to keep going, even in the toughest times.
This arthritis sufferer says it best: “Living with this disease is really hard. There have been days I’ve wanted to give up – just become part of my couch – but I don’t. I fight through the pain, pinching and discomfort every day. If I give up, the arthritis wins; and who wants to lose to arthritis?”