Stress, exhaustion and burnout are extremely common for family caregivers who spend time providing care to a loved one.
You want to do everything you can for the person you care about, but taking time out for yourself is not only important, it's essential to your own mental and physical health.
Look for warning signs that this role is taking its toll on your health - whether you are experiencing stress, anxiety, changes in your sleeping patterns, or an increase in alcohol use or smoking.
Here are five ways you can recharge, reduce stress and make sure you don't suffer family caregiver burnout.
1. Maintain Important Relationships
All too often, family caregivers find themselves increasingly isolated from friends and family, missing out on the social events they used to enjoy - always prioritizing their loved one’s needs over their own. Even if it seems difficult to manage, maintaining close personal relationships is incredibly important to keeping stress levels down during times of increased pressure.
Make time to call or visit friends, stay as active as you can, and try to keep up at least one activity or hobby that you enjoy. Laughter is a great stress reliever, and having close friendships and relationships with other family members will provide an outlet when you need it the most.
2. Accept Help
When you are caring for someone with Parkinson’s, dementia (including Alzheimer’s), or someone recovering from a stroke or heart attack, it can be difficult to see how anyone outside of your situation could possibly help. You may also be tempted to micromanage or stay in control of the help that you do end up receiving.
It’s important to realize that you don’t have to do it alone. Try to let go of some of the tasks that others can take on for you. Make a list of things that are not absolutely essential for you to complete, yourself - and say “yes” the next time someone offers to help.
You can keep the request small - a trip to the grocery store once per week or a regular visit with your loved one. Quite often, there are people in your circle who will be happy to help once they realize their help is needed.
3. Join a Support Group
Look into joining a local support group in your area. Your loved one's medical team might have material they can give you to point you in the right direction, and going along to a meeting might allow you to realize you are not alone in the challenges you face.
It can be especially helpful to join a group with members who are also dealing with a parent with Alzheimer's, a spouse recovering from serious surgery, or other specific situations that are similar to yours. If getting out of the house isn't easy, try looking for an online support group. It is even easier to find people who are experiencing similar life changes to you on the internet, and you will often be able to find someone to talk to at any time of the day or night, which might well suit your needs.
4. Reward Yourself
Sometimes being a family caregiver to a loved one can seem like a thankless job. The person you care for might not be able to say thank you, and it probably seems that nobody really appreciates everything you do.
Make a point of taking stock and acknowledging everything that you do - all your hard work really does count - and imagine how your elderly parent/loved one would thank you if they were in a better physical or mental position.
Reward yourself with healthy treats such as an exercise class, some fresh air, a long bath with candle light and essential oils - whatever it is that you can do that makes you feel wholesome, rested and rewarded - anything that will lift your spirits and help you feel good about yourself again.
5. Engage with a Home Care Company
Just because you want to be the primary caregiver for your loved one, doesn't mean you have to be the only one. Experts recommend getting a break from your caregiver duties at least two times per week and for at least four hours at a time. This might seem impossible if you have been doing all of the caregiver tasks alone, but it doesn't have to be that way.
Getting respite care from a Home Care company can mean you get the break that you need from your loved one, minus the guilt or worry that something might happen while you're not there. Respite care is a great starting point, but consider hiring a Home Care company for one or two periods per week, so you can get the rest and recharge that you need to continue all the amazing work that you do.
Find out how a Home Care company can provide the respite care you need by contacting our compassionate and experienced team.