Have you had a chance to think about your own life lately? Can you think of the last time you've gone out to do something that you enjoy? Is your schedule at all flexible for you to take care of yourself?
If your answer to any or all of these questions is no, chances are you are a caregiver.
Many of us have found ourselves taking care of our elderly, physically impaired or mentally challenged loved ones. Whether you are caring for a parent, spouse, sibling, grandparent, friend, or neighbor, you take on the role as caregiver as a form of repayment for the positive influences they've had on your life. This is a tremendous responsibility that can be rewarding, yet stressful.
When you're a caregiver, you worry about things such as: Did they take their pills today? Have they eaten anything? When is their next doctor's appointment? You become so consumed in taking care of others that you forget something else that is very important – to take care of yourself.
If this sounds like you, believe me, you're not alone.
I once worked in the assisted living admissions department of a senior citizen residential community. There were many occasions when families came to us in full-blown panic for a variety of reasons.
Every circumstance was unique, from a loved one's dementia going beyond what the family could manage to the death of a caregiver leaving their loved one in need of a safe living situation. Tough choices had to be made and the caregiver, or newly inherited caregiver, would find themselves in a very stressful situation.
As much as we never want to say that taking care of our loved ones is an obligation or a burden, the truth is that no matter what word you use it demands a great deal of effort. It can take a toll on you physically, emotionally and even financially.
Please don't allow the demands to overwhelm you! Help is certainly available.
For the first time ever, a class called "Powerful Tools for Caregivers" will be offered in Niagara Falls. This class is specifically geared toward you, the caregiver.
In this class, you will learn to reduce stress, balance your life, increase your ability to make tough decisions and locate helpful resources throughout the community. I have witnessed the benefits of this class first hand, and I promise you that it will be helpful.
Anyone is welcome to take this class, but you must sign up in advance. It begins on April 23 and will be held at the Niagara Wellness Connection Center at Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center. For more information or to register, please call (716) 858-2177.
Please make sure to take care of yourself. As you know better than most, others are counting on you!
David Spagnolo is project manager of Get Well/Stay Well, a program that integrates primary care with mental health counseling and senior support services at Niagara
Falls Memorial Medical Center's Summit Family Health Center.