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It’s no secret that being sick is the pits, whether it’s a nasty virus that clears up after a few days or a long-term condition like cancer or diabetes. And while illness obviously takes a big toll on the patient, it can have just as big of an impact on the primary caregivers, particularly when the illness extends over a long period of time.
That’s why this November, in honor of National Family Caregivers Month, Wilson Medical Center wants to help take care of the caregivers in our community. And according to the Caregiver Action Network (CAN), there are quite a few. Currently, more than 90 million Americans act as primary caregiver for a family member who is living with a chronic medical condition or battling the fragile effects that come with old age.
Taking care of a loved one is a tremendous responsibility. It takes significant time, abundant energy and never-ending compassion. It is physically and emotionally draining. And it often comes with little to no thanks. So, to everyone in Wilson who is caring for a loved one, we want to say a heartfelt thank you. You are making a difference in your loved one’s life, and you are helping make our community healthier as a result. This was clearly made evident to me in a recent discussion we had with a patient and their family member at Wilson Medical Center.
In the days, weeks and months to come, we hope you’ll remember these 10 simple tips, which were shared by CAN. They will help you ensure your own physical, mental and emotional well-being so you can provide the best possible care for your loved one.
1. Seek support from other caregivers.
2. Take care of your own health. This means making sure your regular appointments and well-checks are up-to-date. If you haven’t had a wellness check in a while and need to find a physician, we can help. Call 800.424.DOCS (3627) to find the right doctor for you.
3. Accept offers of help and suggest specific things people can do to help you. For example, if a friend offers to cook a dinner, say yes. If someone asks what he or she can do to help, offer one or two specific things that would be helpful, such as delivering groceries or helping with the cleaning.
4. Learn how to communicate effectively with doctors. As the primary caregiver, it’s important that you play a big role in your loved one’s care plan. Share feedback with the doctor, ask questions and speak up if something seems off.
5. Take a break. Caregiving is hard work. Take time to take care of yourself.
6. Know and watch for signs of depression, and don’t be afraid to seek professional help.
7. Be open to new technologies that can help you care for your loved one.
8. Be organized. Keep medical files neatly organized so it’s easy to find what you’re looking for.
9. Make sure legal documents are in order.
10. Give yourself credit for doing the best you can.
For more tips and resources, visit www.caregiveraction.org. Or, if you or your loved one find yourself in need of professional medical help, call 800.424.DOCS (3627). We’ll help you find a local doctor who best meets your needs.
Ronald Stahl, M.D., is the chief medical officer at Wilson Medical Center.