July 16, 2012

Caring for Caregivers

By: Simone Riente, ASW, CBIS, WBRC Social Worker

Photo: A bonsai tree with exposed roots being held in two hands
Taking care of a loved one has become a task for a growing number of people.  Caregivers are expected to function competently as informal extensions of our healthcare system assisting with activities of daily living, providing medical and emotional support, and also making the home environment accessible, safe, and comfortable.  Caregivers are rarely  compensated, often receive little positive reinforcement and support, and tend to neglect their own needs and interests. Care giving can be a very  rewarding experience; however, caregiver depression and distress are commonly experienced.  Caregivers are often hesitant to reach out for  support because they feel guilty or think it may appear as weakness, carelessness, or self-centeredness. As a  caregiver it is crucial not to put your own needs and feelings aside because you’re trying to help your loved one cope with an illness or disability.

It is important to take a moment and S.T.O.P. what you are doing: 

Seek out opportunities for support,

Take time for things you enjoy,

Opt for help whenever you can, &

Prioritize your own needs. 

The VA has taken major steps in providing more support and resources for those caring for our veterans. The VA Caregiver Support website http://www.paloalto.va.gov/caregiver.asp provides information on the VA’s General Caregiver Program and Family Caregiver Program, as well as  various fact sheets and contact information for our local Caregiver Support Coordinator. The phone number for the National VA Caregiver Support Line is 1-855-260-3274.

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