Self Care Is Key to Being the Best Caregiver You Can Be

Learn more about Older Adult Services at JFS.

Flight attendants will always tell you that you should put on your own oxygen mask before helping others. The same goes for being a caregiver.

Jewish Family Service supports unpaid family and community caregivers of all backgrounds in King County through workshops, as well as individualized support to help reduce stress with an evidence-based tool known as TCARE. JFS works with caregivers to create personalized care plans that can include information and referrals, classes, support groups, caregiver counseling, family consultations, limited respite care and financial assistance.

When we asked the JFS staff of Older Adult Services about advice for caregivers, it was no surprise that self care came up as an important piece of being the best caregiver you can be.

Learn more with advice from JFS staff.

Lani Scheman, Geriatric Care Manager
Please don’t hesitate to ask for real, concrete help when you need it. Friends and family are typically very willing but they don’t know what to do. If you ask for something specific and time-limited — “Can you pick up my prescription this Friday” — while letting the helper know it is fine to say no if it doesn’t work, you’ll find that you have more help than you think and won’t exhaust yourself trying to do every detail in life. There is nothing wrong with asking for help when you need it. You’ll pay it forward at a different time when you are able.

Alan Wittenberg, Geriatric Care Manager & Intake Specialist
The best way to take care of your loved one is to take care of yourself first!
See Irina’s and Adam’s advice below.

Irina Vorona, Russian Language I & A Specialist
There is definitely some homework needed to be done ahead of time when it comes to caring for older adults. I would advise caregivers to know the background, social connections, medical history and all the other pertaining information about their aging loved one. This allows you to have a comprehensive approach in caring for someone as a whole person. A caregiver should be vigilant and proactive, keeping the older adult’s best interest and perspective in mind, while caring and making decisions for the elderly person.In the event of an inclement weather, for example, a caregiver should think in advance what to stock for the elderly person, such as food, medication, household items and supplies, and maybe to stay put for the time being, in case you would not be able to get to your loved one later because of the inclement weather.A caregiver should make sure that an older adult can summon help when they are at home alone. A call button or mobile phone should be always in a working order and readily available.Falls and fire prevention are also important, as well as preventing an older adult becoming a victim of a scam.And, of course, the caregiver should be taking a good care of themselves, otherwise they could become too exhausted, and would not be able to provide the same quality of care.

Adam Halpern, Director of Older Adult Services
Caregiving is so different for every person, depending on personalities, backgrounds, and our past and current relationship with our loved who needs care. For some caregivers, stress can come with managing finances, while for others bathing a loved one is most stressful. There is no right way to be a caregiver and there is no right journey. There are only strategies for managing the stress, whatever its source. Still, in a role that can be overwhelming and isolating, even thinking about stress management can feel like too much. When caregivers need help finding the right stress reduction strategy as well as tools to stay healthy, it’s critical to ask for help. Ultimately, your health, and your loved one’s health, depend on you taking care of yourself.

Lisa Bakke, Family Caregiver Support Coordinator
A poem for family caregivers

Family Caregivers. Wise, tired, grieving, dancing.
The roadmap shifts. The compass has gone haywire. The footing now is quite unfamiliar.
What’s the right path? What’s around the next bend on this journey?
It’s okay. Slow down. You are not alone. I’m here.
I’m waving and smiling at you. I will listen to the story longing to be heard. Beautiful and surprising.
I brought along empathy, encouragement and some provisions.
Let’s take a breath and then one more. Sometimes blowing bubbles helps.
One step at a time. You can do this.
Family Caregivers. Wise, tired, grieving, dancing. It’s okay. Slow down.
You are not alone.

Learn more about Older Adult Services at JFS.

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