If you’re a caregiver, you know caregiving is both rewarding and stressful. On one hand, you are happy to care for your loved one and wouldn’t want it any other way. However, being a caregiver can also cause stress and disrupt your own life.
To give your elderly loved one the best care possible, you have to make taking care of yourself a priority. Here are five tips from the Alzheimer’s Association that can help you handle caregiver stress.
Being a caregiver comes with more responsibilities than a single person can realistically handle. Don’t be afraid to ask for help! Talk to your siblings, spouse, or other family members about delegating responsibilities. Perhaps your sister can take Mom out for lunch on Sundays, or your brother can be responsible for taking Dad to get his haircut once a month. By delegating tasks, you can eliminate some of the caregiver stress and enjoy time to yourself.
In addition to providing care for your elderly loved one, you probably have several other responsibilities and commitments: work, children and/or grandchildren, friends, etc. Depending on where you live, adult day programs, in-home assistance, visiting nurses, and meal delivery may be options. These are just a few services that can help the overwhelmed caregiver manage daily tasks.
Research shows that staying active releases endorphins in our brains, increasing happiness and improving overall well-being. It’s important for everyone to exercise, but it’s especially important for caregivers who are more prone to depression than the average person.
Even 10 minutes of daily exercise can help. This can include a short walk around the block or even walking up and down the stairs. Scheduling a little exercise time every day can reduce caregiver stress.
Being a caregiver isn’t easy, and in order to combat caregiver stress, it’s important to have a dependable support system. Yes, your friends and family can be there for you, but that isn’t always enough. Support groups, on the other hand, are a great resource. Visiting online forums or attending group meetings can be a great outlet to talk about your struggles and a way to get tips from others who have similar experiences.
Many caregivers feel guilty when they spend time away from their loved ones or while doing activities for themselves, but experts recommend that caregivers carve out some time every week for self-care. This might mean enjoying a date with your spouse, registering for a class, shopping, or meeting a friend for coffee. Basically, find an activity that you enjoy and helps you relax and set time aside for it once a week.
It isn’t selfish to take time to care for yourself. By making sure you stay healthy physically and mentally, you can prevent (or at least better handle) caregiver stress and improve the care you’re able to give your loved one. With a strong mind and body, you will be the best version of yourself, and both you and the loved one you’re caring for will benefit.