“Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” – Theodore Roosevelt
This quote is one that is perfect for caregivers. Caregivers are special people. Not just anyone can be a caregiver. Being a caregiver requires patience, responsibility, organization and a true sense of selflessness. Often people become caregivers after a loved one falls ill or has an accident. Caregivers of brain injury survivors are often parents, spouses, sisters, brothers or friends – loved ones who never imagined they’d need to balance being a loved one with being a caregiver.
Despite all that caregivers do – taking their loved ones to doctors appointments, rehabilitation, doling out medicine, serving as moral support and the number one cheerleader – they can often feel inadequate or as though they can never do enough. When you’re experiencing one of those moments in the day when you feel stressed, overwhelmed or helpless, use these tips to get yourself back on track and find inner peace.
1. Accept that what you are doing is enough. Caregivers of brain injury survivors often feel helpless. They strive to help their loved ones make progress, do endless research on the latest treatments and rehabilitation and advocate tirelessly for the best medical care and services out there. However, it never seems like enough. Instead of beating yourself up for not having enough time for a, b or c, feel proud that you provide continual support for the survivor in your life. The work you do is admirable and although there are never enough hours in the day, always remember there is always tomorrow and that is OK.
2. Find a support system. Many caregivers feel as though they’re completely alone. Whether you are a mother or father of a survivor, spouse or friend, it is important to find someone you can rely on if you need to. What happens if you get the flu or simply need a day off? Find someone you can trust and have he or she fill in. Rely on family members and friends. Chances are good that they’d be happy to help, you just need to ask! Caregivers need support just as much as survivors do.
3. Leave time for yourself. Take a vacation. No, really! Take a day off! Get a massage, practice yoga or join a book club. It is important for you to take care of you and by having a support system in place, you’ll be able to do those necessary things like taking a day off, running an errand on your own or taking a vacation. Some caregivers take a vacation or weekend off a couple times each year so they can relax and recharge their batteries. It is incredibly important for you to take care of yourself so you can be the best caregiver you can be and that starts with your physical and mental health.
4. Talk to someone. Find a support group – online or in-person – and talk to others who understand what you’re going through. Caregivers need to find support just as much as survivors do. Brain injury is life-changing not only for the survivor, but for loved ones and caregivers as well. Some caregivers experience PTSD, anxiety or depression, so it’s important to talk to someone you trust and recognize the signs if something isn’t right, so you can get the help you need.
Looking for information and resources for brain injury survivors and caregivers? Call the Brain Injury Association of Massachusetts at 1-800-242-0030.