Caring for your carer

If you employ a caregiver, or if you are residing in a home that employs caregivers, I am writing this article to you. If you are already implementing some of the suggestions below - congratulations, you are a great employer. If you have not considered these recommendations before (or if you have only partially implemented them), I urge you to reconsider. It will be of great value to your caregiver and ultimately you will also reap the benefits.

Caregiving is emotionally draining and the irony is that the more a caregiver becomes attached to his (or her) disabled client (that is you) the more emotionally draining the work becomes. Good caregivers also recognise and respect your mood swings and the emotional outbursts that we are all guilty of at one time or another. Good caregivers also realise that they cannot respond, or defend themselves. As a caregiver once explained to me: "I can't become sad or cross too; then there will no laughter anymore."

So, we as quadriplegics, paraplegics and other employers of caregivers have a moral obligation and a "condition of service" duty to look out for the emotional and physical wellbeing of our caregivers. We should actively promote and ensure that our caregivers look after their stress levels. We should provide the time, opportunities and empathic support for our caregivers to de-stress and maintain their physical and emotional health.

Here are a few pointers for you and your caregiver to consider together:

Don't allow your caregiver to isolate him/herself

Caregiving can easily result in a 24 hours work day, and the caregiver can become very lonely. Allow and actively encourage your caregiver to contact or visit their family and friends. If possible, allow your caregiver access to the Internet; Facebook and online support groups help reduce feelings of isolation.

Give your caregiver "time out" to actively de-stress

Encourage your caregiver to exercise and go for a run, join a gym, join yoga or karate classes etc. (if you can afford it). It may even become necessary for them to consult a therapist.

Encourage your caregiver to say yes to support

If friends or neighbours offer their help; give them the opportunity to assist you, as this will give your caregiver some valuable time off. You should also consider intermittent adult daycare for yourself, if you are not employed. If you are employed, please be careful not to tie your caregiver down with tasks that limits, or prevents personal time out.

Make sure that your caregiver gets enough sleep

This is probably the most important support that you can provide for your caregiver. Particularly if you are a quadriplegic, or have any other form of disability that requires attendance at night. Ensure that your caregiver gets eight hours sleep every day – afternoon naps etc. Encourage your caregiver to stay away from caffeine drinks later in the day and evening. Discuss any concerns or unresolved issues before bedtime to ensure a good night's sleep.

Make sure that your caregiver does not neglect his or her own health

Ensure that your caregiver (and you too) eat regular meals that include fruit and vegetables, and drink lots of water try insist that he/she takes a brisk walk every day if there is no time for his regular exercise program. Look after your employee's basic health and dental care as well.

Allow time out for personal growth

Allow your caregiver time for hobbies. If they like to attend church services and do Bible study or if they just want to relax and read a book or listen to music, allow them some time off. If your caretaker is enrolled in an adult education program, please support him/her and accommodate it as far as possible.

Caregiving is a very difficult and draining occupation. Good caregivers are rare and special people. We should do everything in our power to support them in having a life that is as close to normal as possible. This will build loyalty and respect and will lay the foundation for a long and mutually beneficial relationship.

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