"Caregivers' needs will vary over time along these different dimensions," explained Breslow. "By categorizing and prioritizing, you'll feel better able to address challenges as they arise rather than feeling overwhelmed."
She also offers the following tips for family caregivers:
- Take a break – Caregiving is a demanding job, and respite is needed to avoid burnout. Don't hesitate to take breaks and accept help from others when offered. When help is needed, don't be afraid to ask others to step in and lend a hand.
- Get the facts – Taking time to learn about and understand a loved one's illness will help a caregiver better communicate with the patient's physician and enhance the ability to provide care.
- Self care – Caregivers must address their own health needs by recognizing both physical illness and signs of depression and getting treatment when needed.
- Talk it out – Caring for a family member may stir up a wide range of emotions, ranging from sadness to guilt to anger to frustration; speaking with a therapist or counselor may be beneficial for caregivers.
- Seek support from other caregivers – Find a support group or an online community of people who are faced with the same challenges.
"Always remember that you are not alone and help is available – support groups, online communities and a vast array of resources exist to help people cope with the stress of caring for a loved one," said Breslow. For resources, she recommends visiting the National Family Caregivers Association website. For information on Northwestern's Parkinson's caregiver support group, call 312-503-4397.The Northwestern Parkinson's Disease and Movement Disorders Center is the only National Parkinson Foundation (NPF) Center of Excellence in Illinois. The center provides innovative, multidisciplinary care, while also conducting research to extend knowledge and treatment of movement disorders. There is an emphasis on education and support for patients, families, caregivers, healthcare providers and the community. For more information, visit the center's website. Northwestern Medicine is the shared vision that joins Northwestern Memorial HealthCare and Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in a collaborative effort to transform medicine through quality healthcare, academic excellence and scientific discovery. To find a physician at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, call 312-926-0779.