Caregivers - Toiya and EugeneCaregiving can be a 24-7 commitment — and it’s one of the toughest jobs around. National Family Caregivers Month recognizes that caregivers have to take care of themselves to take care of their loved ones, despite the many roles they play.

“Caregivers have to play cheerleader; they have to play rehab assistant; they have to apply the things they learn from therapists,” said Dr. Barry Jacobs, director of behavioral sciences at Crozier-Keystone Family Medicine Residency Program in Springfield, Penn., in the fall issue of Stroke Connection magazine. “They are taking on a whole new job.”

If you’re a caregiver, you may feel tired, frustrated and uncertain. Caring for yourself, avoiding burnout and staying refreshed may not be top of mind, but they’re some of the things that matter most.  The American Heart Association/American Stroke Association offers materials and resources to help, such as the Caregiver Guide to Stroke and the Financial Consequences of Stroke Caregiving.

In addition, the AHA’s Caregiver website features information on “care for caregivers,” like taking time for enjoyable activities.

You may have questions that you’re afraid to ask a doctor, like “Is there a foolproof way to remember to give my loved one the right medicines at the right time?” Be sure and read the Caregiver FAQ for helpful advice on a variety of topics.

Finally, stay refreshed with these tips:

  • Take a 10- or 15-minute walk a couple of times a day, even if it’s just around the yard.
  • Choose a quiet space in the house where you can go take a few deep breaths, read a book, pray, meditate, listen to music, sing, write in your journal, chat with a friend on the phone or just rest quietly for a few minutes.
  • Schedule timeouts. Choose a time when your loved one is typically sleeping, eating, watching a TV program or seems to be at their best during the day. They will get accustomed to your little timeouts after a while and stop resenting your privacy and interrupting you.
  • Insist on these moments in a gentle way and reward your loved one when you’ve refreshed yourself.