Family caregivers often go unrecognized for the care they are providing to their loved one. Most are not doing it for recognition and are focused on caring for their family members out of love and necessity. Others do it out of a sense of obligation. Caregiving can be very overwhelming but because of their reasons for being the caregiver they can need self-care, and not even realize it, or they are so stressed with all the responsibilities, they don’t see how taking a break is possible.
To successfully navigate the responsibilities as a family caregiver you will need to have a few tools in your toolbox. It will likely be easy to come up with the strategies, but not easy to execute.
Realize you aren’t alone! Your friends may not realize how much you are doing as a caregiver. You don’t want to sound like you’re complaining so you likely keep it to yourself. You don’t want to burden friends or family with what you think is only your responsibility, or your sense of obligation causes you to think that you’re supposed to handle it all on your own.
One of the first steps is to reach out to your trusted family members or friends and share with them how heavy your burden is. Most friends will want to know how they can help you and you can have a few ideas. Maybe one can stay with your aging family member while you go to the salon or get a massage. Perhaps they can bring friends to you, and everyone can include the aging parent while giving you upbuilding friend time. There are usually respite services in communities where you can have skilled assistance help at home while you go on a date night, out with your friends, or even on a vacation. It is okay to take time away. As a matter of fact, it makes you a better caregiver as your brain recharges and you come back refreshed.
If you are overwhelmed, reach out to us to help you. As professional care managers, we focus on helping your aging loved one have the care that they need but we also help caregivers get the breaks you need, or the support needed to reduce the stress and overwhelm.
A few things that come to mind for mind and body self-care you can implement are:
• Be willing to ask for help – seek out other family members or work with your care manager to find solutions to relieve the stress.
• If you are splitting your time, get organized – when managing your home and your loved one’s home, have a schedule and a set list of things to get done so that you can efficiently use your time.
• Give yourself permission – it is okay to take a break and okay to give yourself credit for what you are doing for your loved one.
• Disregard your feelings of guilt – your commitment to their care is selfless, so do not feel like you are not doing enough.
• Know what you are doing is important.
• Meet your loved one where they are – join them on their journey where they are; not where you want them to be because steering another person is more tiring.
• Take time for a walk. Even 15 minutes counts and breathing deep while walking, especially outside or in nature, helps reset stress receptors in your body.
• Get plenty of rest. This is easier said than done in many cases; however, look at things in your life that you can delegate to those around you. Perhaps you can order meal boxes so that someone else in the family can cook the recipes and help lighten the load for a few meals during the week. Maybe you can make a shopping list and send someone else or use a service like Instacart or Shipt to bring your groceries to you.
• Hydrate. Keep a hydro flask with you. They keep drinks cold or hot and always handy. If you’re on the go, you can stop into a fast-food place and get ice water to refill them.
• Meditate. Not everyone find meditation to be relaxing or resetting but if you find it to help you, then make full use of it.
• Self-care appointments. Creating a standing appointment for your hair, nails, or other beauty routines that you enjoy. Maybe it’s a once-a-month or even once-a-week massage appointment. Even 10 minutes in a tanning bed, with music in your ears, can be rejuvenating.
• Faith – if you’re a person of faith, make sure to keep it incorporated in your life in the way that works for you.
• Support groups – every community has different types of support groups. They may be in person or virtual and you can find the one that best fits with your needs. Your care manager will also know about what is available.
• Journal – writing about stressful times is a way to move them from your mind to paper. There is something about writing them down that releases your mind from repetitively thinking about them which can make you feel more stress than it should as it is on repeat.
These are some ideas that you can use to aid you in relieving you of stress you are experiencing. Finding one that will work at a given moment or consistently incorporating an activity that works for you can be a major win. There is still going to be stress but giving yourself grace with a break will make it easier to cope with the stress.
Your care manager is an excellent source of solutions and options for you. If your loved one lives in their own place or in an assisted environment, then the care manager can be your eyes and ears by visiting them on a regular basis and sharing the important decisions that you should make along with their recommendations and options. This will give you time back to tend to your family or yourself. They know what to watch for and how to address their needs, be it an escort to an appointment, evaluating their surroundings for safety, or how to remain as independent as possible.
Teaming up with a care manager can assure you are taking care of yourself and your loved one.
If you or someone in your family are facing aging challenges, please give us a call at 585-787-0009 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll be happy to assist!