Multiple Sclerosis Caregiver Advice
Providing emotional support and physical care for someone with MS can be deeply rewarding. It can also be overwhelming. The strain of balancing care with other responsibilities can lead to feelings of martyrdom, anger, depression and guilt. One of the biggest mistakes caregivers make is thinking they can handle everything alone. The key thing to remember is that you have to take care of yourself, too. If you don't, you may find it challenging to be a successful caregiver.
The National MS Society suggests several things you can do to avoid burnout:
- Reach out for practical and emotional support. Sharing your stress can help alleviate your stress.
- Sleep. Caring for another person takes a lot of energy. Make sure you get your rest.
- Have fun. You also need to nurture your social side and give yourself an outlet to laugh and be with friends.
- Be honest. Many emotional stresses are the result of poor communication. You should be able to discuss your fears and concerns openly.
- Keep your own hobbies and interests. Research shows that the emotional stress of caring is related to how "trapped" by their situation caregivers feel.
- Exercise. Try to set aside 20-30 minutes each day for yourself, so you can clear your head, release endorphins, and care for your body.
- Maintain a healthy diet. Just because you're caring for someone else doesn't mean your own eating habits should slip. Take the time to eat the right foods. They can give you energy, strength, and valuable vitamins and minerals that improve your well-being.
- Join an MS caregiver support group. They can offer an outlet for your emotions and provide practical information and support.
- Watch out for resentment. Anger is a common emotion for caregivers. The caregiving situation can feel (and often is) unfair. So it's crucial to deal with frustration in a healthy way, before angry encounters become physically and emotionally abusive. But tensions can mount in even the most loving families. If that's the case, call for a time-out by seeking professional help.
For more information on caregiving, you may wish to contact these organizations:
National Family Caregivers Association (NFCA)
The NFCA site provides caregivers with tips, newsletters, advocacy, and updates.
This site offers a monthly newsletter, weekly tips, and a support center full of stories written and sent in by caregivers.