Caregivers going it alone in taking care of a chronically ill loved one, are usually operating in unchartered waters. For example, caregiving for a loved one with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) can be a 24/7 job. That’s stressful! You may often feel sad, lose sleep, or get headaches.
Nobody can do it all, even you. Set limits for what you can manage and still take care of yourself. Hate to say no out of guilt? Practice saying it in front of your mirror. Focus on what you can do. If something seems like too much, ask for help.
Caregivers: Meds Management Is Key
People with RA often take multiple drugs. Keep a list of all over-the-counter and prescription treatments your loved one takes. Vitamins, too! Bring it to every appointment so the doctor can keep an eye out for interactions. Jot down when drugs need to be refilled, or set phone alerts. Write down what each medicine is for and instructions for when to use it.
Caregivers: Take A Timeout
Caregiving can lead to burnout if you do too much. Take a break from time to time. See if your loved one’s insurance covers a home health aide. These pros can come to your house to help prepare meals, offer rides, or do small chores. Volunteers in many towns offer these services at no charge. Treat yourself to lunch out with friends, a movie, or a long walk.
Caregivers: Speak Up!
Doctor’s appointments often seem too short to get the answers you need. Make a list of what you want to ask before you leave the house. Need to know about drug costs? Don’t be embarrassed! Your doctor has heard it all before. Nurses can also be a great resource. They may have more time to listen to your concerns.
Caregivers: Always Be Prepared
Life with a chronically ill relative is hard to predict. Make an emergency plan so you’ll know what to do if a scary symptom or drug side effect crops up. Storms or snow could make it hard to get to the doctor’s office or hospital for urgent care. If you can, keep back-up supplies of drugs on hand. If biologics need to stay chilled, call your power company in an outage or buy a generator.
Caregivers: Take Care Of Yourself, Too!
Caregiving is hard work. You need to stay healthy and keep your energy levels high. Keep healthy snacks on hand, like fruit or nuts. They’ll be a better boost than a candy bar from a hospital vending machine or fast-food coffee. Exercise can ease stress and help you sleep better. Even a 30-minute walk on most days will do the trick and keep you healthy.
Caregivers: Use Tech To Stay Up To Date
New technology can help you stay organized. Keep doctors’ phone numbers, insurance information, and prescriptions in one place, whether it’s a notebook or your smartphone. Use apps to remind you it’s time for your loved one to take medications.
Caregivers: Second Opinion
If your doctor suggests a treatment or procedure that worries you, speak up. Ask for a referral to another specialist so you can weigh all your options. Find out what any procedure or drug will cost before you order it. Your doctor’s office or pharmacist should be able to ask your insurer what’s covered. Fewer surprises may mean less stress for you.
Caregivers: Get Help If You Need It
Reach out to your network of family members, close friends, or neighbors to help with some caregiving chores. Make a list of easy tasks someone else can take on once in a while: cook one meal a week, pick up a prescription, drive your daughter to dance class. If someone asks you how they can help, you’ll be ready to offer simple options and get much-needed relief.
Caregivers: Use Support Groups
You don’t just provide support, you need it from time to time, too! Explore local or online meet-ups of fellow caregivers. There are many people out there who are also caring for loved ones with RA or other chronic illnesses. Share your concerns, ask questions, or just vent. Some online forums let you post without using your name if you’d rather keep it private.
Caregivers: Watch for Depression In You
Caregivers, especially women, are at higher risk for depression. This isn’t just feeling down in the dumps. Depression can be harmful to your health. Signs may include crying often, drinking more alcohol than you used to, sleeping too much or too little, or body aches. If you think you’re depressed, seek help now. Talk to a therapist or psychologist about your feelings.
Caregivers: Keep The Med Cabinet Locked
Keep your loved one’s drugs safe and secure. Put a lock on the medicine cabinet if there are children in the house. Kids may not realize colorful pills or liquids could be harmful. Teens may steal the drugs to see if they can get high or mix the pills with alcohol. Don’t toss old or unused drugs in the trash. Ask your pharmacist about safe disposal options.