8 Things Caregivers Can Do to Take Care of Themselves
Prevention & Treatment When a loved one receives a diagnosis, treatment and care at home becomes half the battle.
Caregiving is something we hear a lot about today due to the aging of the population. We have more than 34 million unpaid caregivers providing help to an adult over the age of 50, though because many don’t recognize themselves as caregivers, that number is likely much higher.
Caregiving is a journey that may start by helping someone with minimal tasks: taking them to a doctor’s appointment or helping them make dinner. But, as the patients receiving care continue to age, while the many age-related symptoms and maladies progress, caregiving can become consuming.
Whether you are just beginning the caregiving journey or have stepped into a full-time caregiving role, it is critical that you don’t neglect your own needs. The resources and support you will need may vary based on the length of each role, but finding great strategies and making them habits will lead to providing quality care for your loved one while also caring for yourself.
Here are eight things every caregiver should remember for him or herself:
1. Find emotional support
Joining a support group can help you meet people who truly understand the difficult situation you're facing. If leaving home is too difficult, there's also plenty of support online.
2. Maintain yourself
It’s true that you are not as effective in any role when you are running on empty. Stick to your exercise routine, maintain good eating habits and get your 7-8 hours of sleep a night. The only way to maintain your health is to prioritize these habits, put them in your schedule and maintain consistency.
3. Ask for and accept help
Family and friends want to help, but they usually don't know how or what to do. Next time someone offers support, be prepared with a few ideas; such as dropping off dinner, running to the pharmacy or even watering the flowers. Taking these simple tasks off your to-do list relieves pressure for you and provides fulfillment to the helper.
4. Get formal training
Educational support can better equip a person for the role. There are in-person sessions, workshops and even online training options. For example, at HelpforAlzheimersFamilies.com there are a series of classes that walk through the basics of Alzheimer’s disease as well as tips and techniques for minimizing symptoms and creating meaningful days at home.
5. Manage emotions
We all have emotions, it’s normal; but what we do with those emotions is where we can impact others and ourselves. Next time you are feeling those emotions, stop and ask yourself what’s causing them and if there is anything you can do. A lot of the time we don’t have control of situations, but when we recognize this, it’s easier to let it go.
6. Take a break
There will be a time when you will feel overwhelmed; it is natural. Whether it’s a 15-minute power nap, reading the next chapter in your book, journaling or even a week vacation, take breaks. Even go a step further and indulge yourself in a spa treatment or play another round of golf. Taking time away from this role will only make you a better caregiver and enrich the life of your loved one.
7. Pardon the interruption
Life may occasionally become chaotic, so be prepared for it, accept it and cherish the times of status quo. When the body and mind age, you may see physical and emotional decline in your loved one causing added stress to your life. Understand you will get back to a “new normal” but being organized and striving for the “routine” will help lead you back to your regularly scheduled life.
8. Share the responsibility
It is okay to maintain your current role as daughter or spouse, for example, and share the caregiving responsibilities. Enlisting professional help is a great option to maintain the current relationship with the care recipient.