Taking Care of Yourself

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It's 4 a.m. and you wake up with a start.

You've only gotten to bed a couple of hours ago after a long day, but you can't sleep. You're a wreck because your father insists on staying in his home despite his severe glaucoma. He manages well enough in the daytime but you're worried about him being alone all night. Will he fall on the way to the bathroom? Oh, and did you forget to stock the fridge for him?

Maybe you should get up and go over there … but you've got to drive the kids to daycare in a little while and you have to get ready for work after that. And you just can't ask your husband to take off another day from his job to help out. He's already taken three days off this month.

Scenarios like this are familiar to anyone caring for an older relative with vision loss. The demands on your time—not to mention your physical and mental health—are considerable, especially in the early stages of adjustment.

Even though you feel overwhelmed, don't forget about the one other person you are responsible for … yourself. Set aside time in your life to relax and enjoy something that brings you satisfaction—a hobby, a movie, a long bath. If it seems impossible, keep these points in mind:

  • Don't overburden yourself needlessly. The whole point of assisting relatives with vision loss is to enable them to maintain their independence, not to "take over" their lives. Many of the tasks you feel you need to do are things that your loved either can manage themselves or will manage with time.

  • Ask your relative for help when you need it. If you're too busy to make dinner or finish that load of laundry, your relative can pitch in. Or maybe they can watch the kids for an hour or two so you can catch a break. Mom or dad will probably welcome such opportunities to assist the family.

  • You are not alone. Everything you're going through has been experienced by thousands of other people just like you. Take advantage of caregiver support groups and organizations (see the For More Information section below). In addition to offering moral support, many of these groups provide recreation suggestions, health advice, and great tips for managing your time.

  • Your health is paramount. Yes, people are depending on you—but you can't be there for them if you are exhausted. Take care of yourself.

For More Information:

  • The Family Caregiver Alliance. FCA was the first community-based nonprofit organization in the country to address the needs of families and friends providing long-term care at home. FCA now offers programs at national, state, and local levels to support and sustain caregivers, and has an online family support group.

  • The National Family Caregivers Association. The NFCA provides support and information for caregivers of all types, and has a tips sections for dealing with a variety of issues.

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