Being a caregiver for a loved one is a huge commitment, especially in the case of one who has a chronic lung condition like COPD. Though it means that you have to dedicate a lot of time to make sure your loved one is comfortable and his or her needs are met, this doesn’t mean that you have to neglect your own needs. Caregivers for COPD patients may also usually hold down jobs, have families of their own, or may have other responsibilities. Because of needing to have the right balance between these various aspects, many caregivers may be prone to exhaustion and fatigue.
As a caregiver, it is essential that you keep up your physical, mental and emotional energy to feel your best and keep burnout at bay. It is also important to be able to give your loved one the care and assistance he or she needs. Try some of the following tips for boosting your energy and keeping yourself on your feet even on the most challenging days:
Stay organized and have a system. Keep all medications and supplies sorted and properly arranged in a manner accessible to both you and your patient. It’s handy to have a list of all the patient’s medications and a daily record to tick off whenever the patient has taken a certain medication. Having this type of system can help you be more efficient and conserve your energy to keep you going throughout the day. Such a system can also help the patient or another family member or caregiver take over more smoothly in any event that you can’t be there personally. Also, don’t forget to keep important emergency numbers handy, such as the doctor’s and hospital’s numbers.
Plan ahead.When you know that you may be needed for a longer stretch of time, and possibly need to pull an all-nighter, it’s good to anticipate that you may need more rest beforehand or even a babysitter for your kids to get some time for yourself. If you have a job, you may also have to check if your schedule will allow minor changes such as coming in later so you can use the time to rest. Planning ahead and having everything ready can save you a lot of time and can prevent any unnecessary stress.
Be prepared. When an emergency arises, such as your patient having an exacerbation that may require hospitalization, it’s handy to have a packed bag ready for the hospital. It’s also a good idea to have a list of everything the patient needs for an overnight stay or two, along with a list of the patient’s medications and a record of the patient’s health history to make it easier during hospital admissions.
Increase your water intake. Staying hydrated may be a health cliché, but remember that the more active you are, the more water your body needs. When your body lacks water, you can eventually feel sluggish and fatigued. Prevent dehydration by having an adequately-sized water bottle at all times. Take frequent swigs to keep yourself refreshed and energized throughout the day.
Choose your snacks well. Avoid quick-fix snacks like cookies, pastries and chips. Though your body craves for these carb-laden foods when fatigue sets in, you’re better off reaching for healthier alternatives like nuts, fruit, or other protein-rich alternatives. Carb-laden foods can help you feel better, but their effects only last for a short period of time, leaving you hungrier and more sluggish after the calories have been used up. Healthier foods help sustain your energy and prevent the crash and fatigue you experience after consuming foods laden with refined carbohydrates.
Know when to ask for help.When the inevitable happens and you get tired, sick, or won’t be able to care for your loved one, don’t force yourself into it. Instead, ask for help from a relative or friend who can temporarily take over for you. It’s best to know when you need to take care of yourself, too, otherwise you may end up doing something regretful like giving the wrong medication or ending up in the hospital yourself.
Take a break.If you know that you’re on the edge of burning out, you may need some quality time for yourself with your spouse or friends. Don’t feel bad or guilty that you have to take some time off. Ask another friend or relative to take over your caregiving duties for a while, so you can get a respite from stress, keep yourself sane and take time to relax. Taking breaks can help you get back to caregiving and your other responsibilities feeling refreshed and even more energized.
Being a caregiver means that you need to also be in great shape and optimal health to be able to care for your loved one with COPD. Follow these tips to keep up your energy to be able to help your loved one cope better with the challenges that COPD brings.
Do you have other tips and advice for COPD caregivers? We’d love to hear about them! Share them with us in the comments below!