Carers must maintain their own health and wellbeing while caring to cope with the challenges they can be presented with.
Caring for Someone with Parkinson's
Caregivers play a crucial role in the lives of many people with Parkinson’s by providing much needed practical and emotional support.
Although caring for someone can be very rewarding. However, it can also be harsh and isolating.
The needs of the carer are as crucial as those of the people they are caring for, yet they often get overlooked because attention tends to focus on the person with Parkinson’s.
Parkinson's Caregiver Checklist
Below is a checklist of all things carers need to consider:
Make sure you have all the information you need to care for the person you are supporting. Parkinson’s NZ and Carers NZ can be essential sources of information as can the health professionals you are in contact with.
Keep a diary of the symptoms and difficulties the person you are caring for has and the details of your caring role. This can help you keep track of how living with a disability affects you and can assist you when communicating with health professionals.
Check what financial benefits you could be entitled to, ask a Parkinson’s Nurse or Work and Income to advise you on this.
Dealing with emotions
Don’t be surprised if you have complex, conflicting, and fluctuating emotions about caring. Talking about your feelings and what you are doing is essential. Some people prefer to speak with the person they are caring for or friends and whanau. Others find it helps to talk to someone who is not so closely involved in their lives, such as a counselor or support group.
Networking and support
Try to have contact with other carers. Many carers find contact with other people who are in a similar position is the key to providing invaluable mutual support, information, ideas, and friendship. The internet can be a great place to start with this.
Wherever possible, promote independence on the part of the person you are caring for, even if this means activities take longer. This can help to improve their self-esteem and can ease some of your responsibilities.
Asking for help
Make it clear what you are willing to do. Set priorities and don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it. Sometimes breaking down considerable difficulties into smaller, more manageable pieces can help. Remember, you don’t have to do everything single-handedly and talk to health professionals or support groups for advice on solutions.
Maintaining a lighter perspective
Try to keep your sense of humor. Many carers say that seeing the funny side of things has helped them and the person they are caring for enormously.
Taking time off
Where possible, try not to make Parkinson’s the sole focus of your life. Make sure that you and the person you are caring for have things that you like to do together that are not related to Parkinson’s or health. Having time away from each other to pursue individual interests is also important.
Looking after yourself
Make sure you maintain your health and wellbeing. Try to eat well, exercise regularly, and consider learning relaxation techniques. Take advantage of any respite care facilities that are available to you and the person you care for. If you find your responsibilities overwhelming you or you are feeling depressed or exhausted, make talking to your doctor your top priority.
Source: European Parkinson’s Nurses Network Journal, March 2009.
- Carers New Zealand is an organisation especially for carers of people with a disability
- The Ministry of Social Development publishes A Guide for Carers. This outlines the government support and services that are available to carers, current edition 2013.
- Work and Income
- Ministry of Health information on Respite Services and Carer Support