Whether you find yourself in a new role as a caregiver to someone with Parkinson’s Disease or you’ve been on the caregiver journey for years, you’re a part of a community of caregivers who know what you’re feeling and how difficult it can be.
The role of a caregiver is one that is ever-evolving, and while it can be incredibly challenging, it can also be one of the most loving, compassionate acts one ever does.
Every situation is unique with Parkinson’s, yet there is some very practical advice that is universally applicable for caregivers:
Find Ways to Spend Quality Time Together
As caregivers, it is easy to fall into a routine where every interaction is based on meeting your loved one’s medical needs. By finding creative ways to extend those interactions to simply spending time together, both the caregiver and the patient will benefit.
This might look like sitting outside together talking about a book or tv show you’re enjoying. Perhaps it’s sharing a meal together outside the home that someone else has prepared. Even the little things like a quick chat about an upcoming trip or sharing an old favorite story can help you both remember how your relationship began and why it’s important to you.
Accept Help from Others
It can often be difficult for caregivers to accept help from other sources, either due to a lack of trust or even feelings of guilt or shame that you are not able to provide care 100% of the time.
One of the best ways to take care of your own health as a caregiver is to take a break. Not only does this provide you with physical and mental rest, it also gives your loved one a change of pace and something interesting to look forward to.
Many communities offer some type of respite care or short-term resources to provide companionship, nursing services, or both. Group support systems, neighborhood friends, and other relatives are also good sources to turn to when a break is necessary.
Take Care of Your Own Health
The number one piece of advice for caregivers is almost always to ensure you are taking care of your own health needs. For some, this might look like having a regular exercise regimen and a healthy diet that supports your immune system. For others, getting a consistent good night’s sleep might be the most important factor in staying alert and healthy during your time as a caregiver
If putting your own health first feels selfish, it may be helpful to talk to other caregivers who have been in similar situations before.
Use All the Resources Available to You
According to the Parkinson’s Foundation, nearly one million people in the U.S. are living with Parkinson’s disease, and approximately 60,000 Americans are diagnosed with PD each year.
Thankfully, there are also countless resources available to caregivers to help navigate this often uncertain journey. From making home repairs and adjustments like removing obstacles and making rooms more accessible, to finding insoles for Parkinson’s patients to improve balance, using all the tools available to you can make life easier for those with Parkinson’s and their caregivers.
Be Mindful of your Emotional Health and Mental Needs
While it’s important to take care of your physical health, the emotional and mental health needs of caregivers are equally as critical. Feelings of isolation and overwhelm are often reported among caregivers so it’s important to check-in with yourself regularly and do a mental scan of how you’re feeling.
Experts also suggest keeping a journal to record your daily emotional health and participating in either individual therapy or group support systems to ensure your mental health is strong enough to help you continue caring for your loved one into the future.