The family caregiver experience is one of great conflict. On one hand, helping a loved one tackle a health condition may seem like only a natural expression of your love for them, and at times you wouldn’t have it any other way. But being a caregiver also comes with considerable burden, stress and disruption to your own life. Your needs are constantly being put on the back burner, and the worry and anxiety that can come from providing care for the elderly can be a lot to handle at times.
While many don’t realize it, caregivers are at an increased risk for emotional and physical health problems, with older adults in caregiver roles particularly vulnerable. Because caregivers are focused on providing support for someone else, many stop taking care of their own health concerns which places them at risk of getting sick.
In working with patients to prevent caregiver burnout, the Alzheimer’s Association offers these recommendations:
- Find out what resources are available in your community.
Providing all-day care for a senior can feel like more work than a full-time job. This places a lot of stress on caregivers, many who already have other jobs and commitments they also need to attend to. Adult day programs, in-home assistance, visiting nurses and meal delivery are just some of the services that can help the overwhelmed caregiver manage daily tasks.
- Enlist others for help.
Being a caregiver is a lot for anyone to handle, so caregivers need to learn how to delegate responsibilities to others. Siblings, spouses or other family members and friends are great resources for this. Take turns with others driving your senior to the doctor, spending time with them, or caring for their other living affairs. Having direct and open lines of communication between all involved caregivers is essential for this process to work, but having even one extra set of hands can be a great way to reduce your stress.
Support groups of other caregivers can also be a great resource as well. Visiting online forums or attending group meetings can be a great outlet to talk about your struggles and learn tips from others who have similar experiences.
- Get moving.
Research shows that staying active releases endorphins in our brain, increasing our happiness and improving our overall well-being. This is why it is important to make sure you participate in some kind of physical activity as often as possible. Even 10 minutes of exercise a day can help. It can be as simple as taking a walk or going up and down the stairs.
Looking for some easy ways to get moving? Since spring is finally here, try some of these exercises that get you outside and fit.
- Use relaxation techniques to relieve stress.
It’s easy to remember to take care of our physical health, but mental health is just as important. Since caregiving is such an emotionally taxing role, many caregivers find themselves experiencing increased amounts of anxiety and worry. There are several simple relaxation techniques that can help relieve stress. This may include yoga, reading, meditation, breathing exercises and muscle relaxation which can be done in the comfort of your home. Try a few of these techniques and see what works best for you, and schedule time every day to practice this relaxation habit.
- Make time for yourself.
Many caregivers feel guilty when they spend time away from their loved ones or doing activities for themselves. But experts recommend that caregivers carve out some time every week for self-care, where they can get away to spend time with a friend, shop, or take a class. Find an activity that you are passionate about and helps you relax and have fun. Whatever that activity is, make sure you schedule it into your calendar at least once a week in order to ensure you are getting your required amount of “me-time.”
- Become educated.
Each illness that a caregiver may deal with is different and unique, and therefore has different consequences and demands. Whatever illness your elderly loved one is dealing with, it is important to stay updated on the latest information available to you.This involves researching the internet, getting involved with support groups and talking to specialists. Make it a goal to keep educating yourself about the best ways to care for your senior, and seek out information that will help you do so.
It isn’t selfish to take time every day to care for yourself. By making sure you stay healthy both physically and mentally, not only do you reduce your risk of future illness but you also help improve the quality of life of the one you are caring for. With a strong mind and body, you will be able to be the best version of yourself and provide your loved one with all the care and attention they need.
For more information about how you can continue caring for an elderly family member, contact Angel’s Senior Home Solutions for the assistance and support you need.
Angels Senior Home Solutions is a based-in-faith company that provides in-home healthcare and personal care services for seniors. Visit our website here or find us on Facebook or Twitter!