Top Ten Ways for Caregivers to Take Care of Themselves in the New Year
The National Alliance for Caregiving and the AARP report that nearly 66 million Americans provide uncompensated care to a loved one who is ill, disabled or aged. Many of these caregivers have full-time jobs and families of their own. Juggling these numerous responsibilities can often lead the caregiver to start neglecting their own needs, such as eating well, exercising and spending time with friends and family. Here are some tips to help make caregivers ensure they’re taking care of themselves in the year to come.
Create a plan
People who take action to combat stress as opposed to ignoring it or falling into a feeling of helplessness are better able to deal with the added challenges in their lives.
Make the person you’re caring for aware of times you’re available to provide assistance and stick to a pre-arranged schedule. If you have something that comes up that alters that schedule, let them know and help them find an alternate source of assistance, if possible.
Let others in your life know your situation
If you have children, explain to them what’s going on and that you may be less available for them and you still love them and want to know what’s going on in their lives. Talk to your boss – you may be able to arrange a work schedule that accommodates your caregiving duties. Let coworkers know you appreciate their support during this time.
Understand that all feeling are normal
Caregiving can be a roller coaster of emotions. You may feel sadness that your loved one is changing physically or mentally. You may resent the time you spend with them because it’s taking time away from the career or family that you love. Acknowledge these feelings and understand they are completely normal and part of the role of being a caregiver.
Share your feelings with someone you trust
Find a friend you can confide in or see a therapist to help you sort out your emotions. Simply having an understanding ear can prove to be enormously healing. Support groups are also a wonderful way to connect with others who are likely experiencing many of the same emotions and challenges you are.
Involve family members
Don’t feel as if you’re the only one who can take care of your loved one. Other family members or friends are great people to lean on to take up some of the responsibilities. If they live far away, ask them if they would be willing to take a weekend or a week to help. If they aren’t able to provide support in person, ask for financial help for medications, food, or hiring outside help.
Create some “me time”
Taking care of someone else requires a great deal of self-care. It’s all too easy to get caught up in your caregiving role, and letting other things slide – spending time with family and friends, exercising, or continuing your healthcare regimen. But being a good caregiver means taking care of yourself – physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. It’s important to continue doing those things that make life worth living – whether that’s taking your child to the park or catching up with a friend over lunch.
Take time out for a “spa day” or visiting a place you’ve never been to. Being in a new place can provide one with a new outlook on life without the constant reminders of how things used to be.
Seek out local assistance organizations
As America’s population is aging, numerous local resources are popping up to help take on the burden of caring for them. Local senior service providers, senior centers, churches and programs such as Meals on Wheels are all available to help you with the challenges you’re facing, often free of charge.
Consider hiring professional help
An Aging Life Care professional can help provide assistance in assessing your loved one’s needs and finding the resources for both them and for you in your role as caregiver.