As a caregiver you have probably heard this countless times, “You must care for yourself in order to care for others.”
When you are a caregiver to a person who’s disabled or ill, meeting your own health needs, in addition to those of the person you are caring for, can be a challenge.
You have most likely heard the same thing from your medical professional advising you on how to take care of your arthritis symptoms. When you are a caregiver to a person who’s disabled or ill, meeting your own health needs, in addition to those of the person you are caring for, can be a challenge.
There are a myriad of challenges (physical, emotional or financial) you encounter while being a caregiver who also experiences a chronic disease like arthritis.
In this Elizz Caregiving article we will address the three most common physical challenges of living with arthritis disease and give some practical solutions to help you continue the great work you do as a caregiver, without having to feel like you are beginning to wear down.
Research shows that on average, most caregivers are women between the ages of 40 and 50 who are working outside the home while caring for an aging family member or parent. Add to this schedule a chronic condition like arthritis (rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, inflammatory arthritis) that often causes physical fatigue and you get a recipe for disaster. What can you do?
- Avoid staying up late to watch TV, keep the room temperature low, and make your bedroom as dark as possible so you can have a good night’s sleep,
- Maintain healthy regular eating habits.
- Take 10 – 15 minutes each day for regular exercise. Research shows that even just low intensity walking can help significantly to reduce fatigue in people with arthritis (Psychological Bulletin – no date published). See also our article on Exercise for Caregivers.
- See your physician if the feeling of exhaustion is not easing up as it can indicate that your disease is not actively controlled.
- Increased joint and muscle pain
Being a caregiver may involve demanding physical activity such as assisting with transfers, supporting someone when walking, and in general being more “active” than your norm. This additional stress can aggravate inflammation, causing your arthritis symptoms (pain and/or stiffness) to worsen. What can you do?
- Engage the person you are caregiving for and encourage them to assist as much as they can with all the physical tasks. Trying to do everything for the person you are helping can create “excess disability” as it further decreases their abilities and self-esteem.
- Whenever the task to be done is physical (carrying or lifting for instance), ensure you are using your larger muscle groups (biceps, quads). This will help take some of the strain off your joints. For example, when carrying a large container of water it’s recommended that you hold the container handle with one hand while supporting the weight by placing your other hand or arm beneath container.
- Doing tasks that are not safe
In hospitals or care facilities, there are trained staff to handle physical tasks that are difficult or heavy such as assisting with transfers, bathing, and other activities of daily living. Many family or home caregivers will attempt these physical tasks alone (along with many other difficult duties) simply because they feel they have to, fearing that no one else will do them. What can you do?
- Create a list of caregiving tasks that you feel need to be done and discuss it with your physician or health care provider (i.e. physical therapist and/or occupational therapist) to determine if it safe for you to continue providing that type of caregiving assistance.
- Enlist the help of a family member or look into employing a health care provider to help you with these more difficult tasks (i.e. personal support worker).
- Reconsider the type of support/assistance you are providing. When you offer emotional support to the person in your care, it is as essential as providing physical help.
Check out The Arthritis Society for some exercises to help relieve arthritis symptoms.