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MAGAZINE / May-June 2006 / Sudden Hospitalizations

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Sudden Hospitalizations

By Sandra Ray, Staff Writer

(Page 2 of 2)

Caregivers: Take Time for Yourself
 
More than anything, this study underscores the need for caregivers to take time for themselves in the midst of a difficult situation. Getting plenty of rest, eating properly, exercising (even modest amounts) can make a significant impact on their overall ability to cope with a partner’s disabling disease. As Christakis said, “It’s the disablingness of the disease, more than its lethality, that seemed to affect the other partner.” This could be one reason why a cancer diagnosis had little effect on a caregiver’s health and a serious hip fracture caused a dramatic increase in death.
 
These ideas, and many others, can help caregivers cope with the difficult days ahead that often accompany a sudden disability. Other ideas that may help are finding a community support network. For individuals age 60 and older, the Area Agencies on Aging are excellent resources to ask about caregiver support. Some of the services that these agencies offer include information and referral, benefits counseling, and, when resources are available, even respite care and minor home modifications. The Eldercare Locator is a free service of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and contains listings of all Area Agencies on Aging. Their number is 1-800-677-1116 or online at www.eldercare.gov.
 
Technology: A Double-Edged Sword
 
In times of disabling illnesses, technology can be one excellent resource to keep someone connected. The increasing use of technology in our daily lives means that we have more ways to both stay connected and stay isolated, all at the same time. By using technology to stay focused on the social network, rather than relying on it for your sole means of communication, can be an excellent way to stay connected.
 
Cell phones, for example, can help keep family informed and give the caregiver an outlet for expression. Cell phones are portable and can be used outside the hospital to give updates on your spouse’s condition. Since most hospitals do not allow cell phone use, getting outside to use one can also be an excellent way to get a small amount of exercise.
 
E-mail is also a tremendous resource for staying connected. Don’t be tempted just to jot down a few notes, press “send,” and make that the only means of reaching out each day. While e-mail is a good way to stay connected, make sure to take time to talk to others on a regular basis about what is going on in your life. A support group, a phone call, or meeting a friend for a quick lunch will also help tremendously.
 
Online bulletin boards often provide affirmation that someone else understands the situation. These are great resources for information, learning tips on how to take care of yourself, and even making useful friendships that foster self-confidence. Don’t let this be the only form of communication with others, though. Make sure not to substitute electronic contact for human contact.
 
Finally, remember that while a spouse’s hospitalization may pose dramatic life changes, there are still many opportunities for the healthy spouse. By staying focused on your own needs and keeping a good base of community support, you may be saving your own life as well.
 
Other ideas to help caregivers relax include:

  • Having someone prepare meals in advance  so that all is needed is reheating.
  • Taking a short walk.
  • Eating properly.
  • Getting enough rest.
  • Having someone available to sit with your spouse while taking a short break from the  hospital.
  • Finding a caregiver support group.
  • Staying connected to existing support networks: friends, family, or church.

 

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