Diagnosis of an illness or debilitating disease for a loved one drastically Changes the lives of at least two people the one with the diagnosis and the one whose life is committed to caring for them. The National Family Caregivers Association has developed four principles that can serve as a life preserver for the more than 25 million people who find themselves struggling to stay afloat in the role of family caregivers.
Four Principles help caregivers Care for self too
1 Choose to take charge of your life
2 love, honor and value yourself
3. Seek, accept, and at times demand help
4. Stand up and be courted
The issues that surround family caregivers affect all Americans. It is often forgotten that the illness or disease has a profound affect on the Caregiver. A caregiver commits to caring for a loved one, and it alters the course of his or her life While the recipient of the care has the illness or condition, the caregiver may have a psychosocial version of that disorder. Because the caregiver’s symptoms are sometimes invisible, intensive-level caregivers feel isolated, have low self-esteem, and suffer from depression and high levels of frustration. The National Family Caregivers Association (NFCA) is committed to assisting family caregivers, as they provide support for their loved ones, and has developed the NFCA’s Principles of Caregiver Self-Advocacy, to aid family caregivers in their difficult role.
Suzanne Mintz, president and co-founder of the NFCA, said. “These principles were developed out of my personal experience.” For the past twenty years Mintz has helped care for her husband, who has been afflicted with Multiple Sclerosis. “As I began to think more about caregiving, to write more about it, I began to put words on paper that expressed what I realized was a pattern of behavior I had adopted to keep me on an even keel.” Mintz explained. Many care givers have encouraged Mintz to continue to share these principles.
The first principle is to choose to take charge of one’s own life. Many caregivers allow a loved one’s illness or disability to take center stage in their own life. This is not healthy for a caregiver or the loved one, for it is crucial to find a degree of balance. According to the NFCA/Fortis Report: Caregiving Across the Life Cycle, many care givers put an estimated 21 hours or more into their caregiving each week. Others are responsible for their loved one all day every day. Caregiving is a choice. Initially no one chooses to be a caregiver, for ill ness and disability often arrive unexpectedly. Mintz asserts that, “When you step back from the fray and realize you can actively choose to be a caregiver because you love someone and want to take care of them, that’s an affirmation, an active choice, and realizing that can help you keep everything else in perspective.” The next principle is for a caregiver to love, honor, and value oneself. The hopes and dreams of caregivers are sometimes abandoned or put on hold as caregivers put all of their energy into assisting their loved one. Caregiving is a difficult job and individuals deserve quality time, for themselves. NFCA believes that self-care isn’t a luxury, but rather it is a necessity. Respite is vital to caregivers’ well-being. There is reluctance on the part of caregivers to grieve for themselves because their loved one has lost so much more.
In the NFCA survey it was reported that nearly half of the family caregivers in America are employed elsewhere. Of those who work, more than 71 percent spend over 31 hours per week in the work place. While this effort is phenomenal, it is important for caregivers to maintain their own interests and build an independent life.
More than 76 percent of family caregivers providing intense levels of care say they receive no help from other members of the family. according to the membership survey conducted by the NFCA (NFCA/Fortis Report). The third step, to seek, accept, and at times demand help, addresses this situation. NFCA stresses that a caregiver should not be ashamed to ask for help, especially if the caregiver is working. When people offer assistance, caregivers should accept it and suggest specific things that people can do to help. NFCA believes that most people don’t mind if a caregiver asks for help, they often just don’t know what they can do to help.
The final principle is to stand up and be counted. The problems of affordable healthcare affect every one, and it is important that care givers have their opinions heard. There are 25 million family care givers in this country, and because there are 25 million unique and different challenges at different times in their lives, caregivers are often alone, uncounted, and unaided. NFCA urges caregivers to communicate with their neighbors, talk to other caregivers, and become active in the community. Caregivers need to stand up. for themselves and for their care recipients, to gain the recognition, respect and assistance they deserve.
These four principles can help caregivers maintain balanced lives. NFCA understands just how difficult the situation can be, and offers these principles to help the millions of caregivers, as they have helped Suzanne Mintz.