Being a caregiver can be really HARD. Some people might wonder, "How can caring for someone you love be hard?" It just is. As a caregiver, you get tired. You ask, "Why me?" You wonder if things will ever be "normal." Oftentimes, you forget about yourself, which, while selfless and Christlike, can also lead to the downfall of the caregiver. The disease goes much further than the patient. It affects the whole family, in many different ways.
At one time or another, I have had all of these thoughts, and more. I have let myself go. I don't believe in drinking, smoking, or drug use, so when things get hard for me, I turn to food. But really, food can be just as harmful as any of the above. Luckily, I have recognized that fault in myself and am now working to correct that situation, but I have gained a significant amount of weight in the meantime, which I am going to have to work off. That is going to be hard, too. It is unfortunate that I didn't find another way to release the stress that I was feeling. For that reason, I am writing this post. I am hoping that somebody out there will read this and know that they are not alone.
There are many resources available for caregivers of all kinds. Since I am a caregiver for an MS patient, I am going to focus on that.
1.) The National MS Society-www.nationalmssociety.org-1-800-FIGHTMS
The NMSS is an amazing resource. It is the first one that my husband and I joined when we found out that he had MS. They offer literature, support groups, family activities, and more. Before we moved to our current location, Mr. M and myself went to the monthly support group, where we made many friends and were able to talk freely about all things MS. We also attended many family activities, including a baseball game and a trip to a local farm. The NMSS also puts on the MS Walk, one of the biggest fundraisers for MS research. We have participated in the walk twice, and one year I won an award for being one of the top fundraisers!
2.) The Multiple Sclerosis Association of America-www.msassociation.org-1-800-532-7667
Like the NMMS, the MSAA is also a non-profit organization that is dedicated to "enrich the quality of life for EVERYONE affected by MS." They have a magazine called The Motivator, which always has tons of helpful articles for the patient and the caregiver. Their website is also a great place to visit. There you can find "lifelines" to help you, such as an 800-number that you can call for help or reassurance, a lending library, and a list of support groups.
3.) The Multiple Sclerosis Foundation-www.msfocus.com
This website offers a list of support groups and ideas on how to get help. They are also offering a CRUISE for people with MS and their families in the year 2010. The trip is a bit pricey, but if you can afford it, it looks like it would be a great way to relax amongst other people dealing with MS. During the cruise, educational lectures are offered for the patients and their families.
4.) Your local library
Your local library should have several resources, such as self-help literature or even groups that meet there weekly or monthly. If a certain book is not available at your specific library, you can ask to do an inter-library loan, which would allow your library to borrow the book from another library, and then lend it to you.
5.) Meet with your Bishop, Pastor, or Clergy
One of the best people you can talk to is someone who shares your faith. They can give you insight and uplifting messages that are sometimes all you need to feel better. Many are sworn to secrecy, so you shouldn't feel like they are going to share your problems with anyone. Even if you are not a church-goer, these people are usually willing to lend an ear if you need someone to talk to.
6.) Do something for yourself
Whether it be going out with friends, going shopping or going to the movies, or even just taking a drive, be sure that you do SOMETHING for yourself at least once a month. This will give you "away" time, a time where you can focus on you and not feel guilty about it. Exercise is also a great way to relieve stress, and you will feel better about yourself if you can commit to doing it.
Whatever it is you decide to do, be sure that you do it for you. Your loved one is of the utmost importance to you, and if you wear out, who will take your place? By taking care of yourself, you are taking care of your MS patient.
**DISCLAIMER: I am not a doctor. The above information is to be used at your own risk. The things that I have listed are partly my own opinions that I have formed from experience, and partly from the above mentioned websites.