Family caregivers who neglect to take care of their own needs can quickly experience burn-out and exhaustion. Here are several important self-care tips for family caregivers to keep in mind.
There are many warnings signs that your senior loved one may be on their way to needing in-home care, such as difficulties in mobility, disorganization in the house, and forgetting to take important medications. As these signs become more and more apparent, family members can be faced with a difficult choice regarding who they will appoint as the primary caregiver of their aging loved one. In many cases, family members themselves may choose to step in as their loved one’s primary caregiver. This is a noble and selfless decision, but family caregivers who neglect to take care of their own needs can quickly experience burn-out and exhaustion.
Here are several important self-care tips for family caregivers to keep in mind.
Continue working in your current job if possible.
It’s easy for caregiving to transition into a full-time position, but many experts strongly urge family caregivers to continue working in their current job position. Not only does this provide a steady stream of income for both you and your senior loved one to live off of, but it also allows you to maintain a part of your identity that is unrelated to caregiving.
This can help prevent burn-out and provide an outlet for family caregivers. If working full-time hours simply isn’t possible in conjunction with your caregiving duties, consider asking your employee if you can cut your hours down to part-time work.
Develop hobbies that help you relieve stress.
Depending on their unique circumstances, family caregivers may feel stressed out, anxious, afraid, lonely, and even resentful. These are all normal and common emotions to experience as a caregiver, but it’s important to find an appropriate outlet that can help you stay on track mentally and emotionally.
Some options include:
- Yoga, stretching, or meditation
- Daily walks
- Talking with a close friend
The best outlets are those that can be enjoyed from the comfort of your own home, where you can still keep an eye on your loved one. If you are worried that your negative emotions are beginning to take over your mental health, seek out professional help for yourself.
Don’t forget about your own physical health.
When you spend the majority of your days helping a loved one take care of themselves, it can be easy to start putting their health needs above your own. But if you allow your own health to go unchecked and un-monitored, you may in turn be compromising your abilities to adequately care for your loved one.
The American Heart Association recommends at least 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise, which could be as simple as a 20 minute walk every morning. Doing your best to carve out a small amount of time every day for physical activity can help you stay energized and motivated.
It’s also important to get regular check-ups and receive annual immunizations, which can help you feel your best and alleviate concerns about your own health.
Don’t feel guilty about asking for and accepting help.
When it comes down to it, there are only so many hours in a day and it’s just not realistic to think that you can “do it all.” It’s so important to know what your physical, mental, and emotional limits are, and to not feel guilty when you’re unable to exceed those limits.
Asking for help when you need it isn’t a sign of failure; it’s a sign of strength. If your friend or neighbor asks if there is anything that they can do to help, tell them what you need! If you need someone to stay with your relative while you attend to an appointment, or if you need someone to bring you some groceries while you deal with a mini-emergency at home, don’t be afraid to ask someone you trust.
Perhaps the biggest challenge of all for family caregivers is when the time comes when they need to start seeking out professional help. Depending on your loved one’s health condition and your level of training, it may be inevitable that you will need to bring in hired help. Keep in mind that you’re not “giving up” – you’re simply doing what is in the best interest of your loved one.
What self-care tips do you practice as a family caregiver? What has proved to be the most effective for you?