Support for Caregivers
Caregivers have a tough job and burnout is frequent. Simply put, caring for a parent, sibling, other family member or friend with cancer, like mesothelioma, often seems like a 24/7 task and those who take it on are to be commended.
While they should be lauded for their undying devotion, caregivers should also be pushed to take time for themselves. Caregiver burnout can result in both mental and physical exhaustion, which is dangerous not only for the person being cared for but also the caregiver her/himself. Support can come from a variety of different sources. It may come from the other family members and friends that are available to provide the caregiver with a much-needed break. But it may also come from outside sources, including "support groups" made up of others who are charged with the same responsibilities.
In the busy world of a caregiver, gathering with others to discuss care-related concerns may seem like a frivolous waste of time. But experts deem interaction such as this a real necessity for caregivers and one of the best ways to avoid burnout.
Generally, the first resource for finding such a support group is your local hospital. Many hospitals have strong support group programs for all kinds of things, and in the past 20 years of so, caregiver support groups have become quite popular. Attending these meetings is essential for a variety of reasons. First of all, it gives the caregiver a reason to get out of the house. (Many caregivers begin to feel trapped or isolated, so even taking time out once a week is essential.) Most meet at the same time each week, so it's easier to find a replacement caregiver on a fixed schedule so that you can attend the meeting. Also, the fact that these meetings are local means you'll be meeting caregivers that live nearby, offering yet more opportunity for interaction outside the group. You'll also be conversing with people who may be well-versed as to what other resources for caregivers and patients are available in your local area.
If you can't find a group at the nearest hospital, get in touch with your local Agency on Aging, an organization that keeps track of such activities. If you still can't find one, consider starting your own at a nearby hospital, senior center, or elsewhere.
Internet Support Groups
It seems there are support groups, forums, or blogs on the internet for just about everything. And while everyone knows you can't believe everything you read on the Web, the internet is indeed a great resource for caregivers who have limited resources in their local area or limited time to access those face-to-face resources.
While these groups won't get you out of the house, they do provide convenience in that you can access them at any time, even when you only have a few minutes to spare. Furthermore, you'll have access to a wider range of individuals including people all over the world. This can be especially good for those who are dealing with loved ones who perhaps have a rare disease and can't find enough people in their local area to form a group.
Helpful Online Resources
Technology has made finding information and support much easier for caregivers, many of whom often feel isolated, or are unable to find the time to interact with others on an in-person basis or to go to a bookstore or library to research a certain subject that impacts their caregiving. Websites dedicated to the issues of caregivers provide a wealth of useful data and information and are often written by those in the same situation, making them an ideal resource.
- http://www.caregiver.com/ - Written by caregivers for caregivers, in particular adults caring for their aging and/or ill parents, this wonderful site also provides resources for professional caregivers. The site was founded in 1995 and the publisher, Caregiver Media Group, produces Today's Caregiver magazine, the first national publication designed specifically for caregivers. The magazine - available by subscription in print form or online - has a variety of monthly features and articles by experts as well as "regular" individuals, and the website has info on various diseases and other pertinent subjects as well as links to help find local resources in your area.
- http://www.caregiver.org/caregiver/jsp/home.jsp - Published by the Family Caregiver Alliance and dedicated to families caring for loved ones with chronic, disabling health conditions, this site is an excellent source of education and information for caregivers around the country. It provides tips and advice written by caregivers or experts; offers information on available workshops and conferences about caregiving; provides information on public policy pertaining to caregivers; outlines pertinent current research, and provides links to national and local resources.
- http://www.caregiverslibrary.org/ - The National Caregivers Library provides access to extensive articles, forms, and checklists pertaining to caregiving and caregivers and also offers links to external resources, both government and private. You'll also find help and information for religious-based caregiving ministries and a "store" where visitors to the site can purchase books and other helpful materials.
When parents are diagnosed with mesothelioma, children will find comfort in support groups and other resources that can help them cope with their parent’s illness.
Caring for Oneself
No matter where you find a support group - in your own backyard or in cyber space - getting support is essential. The biggest mistake caregivers make is trying to "do it all" and not giving any responsibility to anyone else. They also forget to take time for themselves.
The caregiver must intersperse their day with things they enjoy, like a few minutes spent knitting, reading, or tending to a garden. It's also a good idea to keep a daily journal. That helps keep your feelings in check and provides a self-warning device when you're headed for burnout.
During the hours you're not providing care, take advantage of every minute to do something you enjoy. Be sure to set aside time to be with others by arranging dinner dates or other activities, even if you think you'll be too tired to do them. Chances are that when you get out there with friends or family, your energy will be restored and you'll enjoy your time away from the responsibilities of caregiving.