TAKING CARE OF YOU WHEN CARING FOR A LOVED ONE WITH HIV OR AIDS
As a caregiver of a loved one with HIV or AIDS, it is important to understand your own needs for rest, food, enjoyment, and relaxation on a daily basis to remain physically and emotionally effective. Only by taking care of you can you adequately care for someone else. It is important to be realistic about what you can expect from yourself, and keep in mind that nobody is perfect.
It may be helpful to look at your past coping patterns to determine your strengths and weaknesses when dealing with stressful and demanding situations. It is also important to assess other current stressors, such as family, work, and financial matters. It is also important to be aware of any changes in your routine that may have arisen due to your caregiving responsibilities.
You can help yourself with time management and reducing stress by using some of the following ideas:
It can be difficult to take care of someone else if you are sick, or upset, or tired. That’s why it is important to get enough rest and some exercise so you can remain strong in body and mind. It is also very important to take some time off, see your friends or family, go to the movies, go shopping, or meet someone for a cup of tea. Many AIDS service organizations provide something called “Respite care,” which can help you take time off, as they will send someone trained as a caregiver for someone with HIV/AIDS to your house to help your loved one. This lets you leave the house for a while, even if it is just an hour.
It is hard to remember while you are caring for someone else, but you should take care of yourself first.
You may feel overwhelmed and confused when you learn your loved one’s disease is progressing. Here are several strategies to help you cope with feeling overwhelmed:
You may feel very angry sometimes when caring for a loved one with HIV/AIDS. It is okay to feel this way at times, and perfectly normal. Feeling angry is okay as long as you act on these feeling appropriately. The best way to deal with angry feelings is to recognize them, accept them, and find some ways to express the feelings appropriately. If you don’t deal with your anger, it can get in the way of trying to live your life and care for your loved one. Here are a few strategies that may help you deal with feeling angry:
You may become afraid when someone you love has a serious illness. You may not know what is in store for them, or for yourself. You may be afraid that you cannot handle what may happen. Here are several ways that may help you handle your fears:
Loss and Sorrow
A serious, life-threatening illness can bring on a great sense of loss and sorrow. You may feel sad that the plans you had for the future may not be fulfilled. You may feel the loss of the “normal” person you love and the “normal” things you and he or she did before the illness.
You may want to talk to other people who have had similar experiences. People who have cared for someone with a serious illness may understand how you feel at this time. They may be willing to listen, and help you work through feelings of loss.
Many people caring for someone with HIV or AIDS feel guilty at some time during the illness. You may feel guilty because you blame the person for their illness. You may feel guilty because you are well and your loved one is sick.
Feeling guilty is understandable, but it can interfere with being a good caregiver. Guilt may make you think about things you could have done wrong, while many problems have several causes.
To solve a problem, you should work towards forgiving yourself and the other person. Here are some other ways of coping with guilty feelings:
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