According to the National Alliance for Caregiving there are approximately 65.7 million non-professional caregivers in the United States providing care to loved ones at home. Providing care to a loved one who is coping with an illness or a chronic condition can be stressful. Caregiving can require sacrifices of your time, work hours, out-of-pocket expenses, vacations, future plans and savings.
Caregivers may experience high levels of depression and anxiety and cope with feelings such as despair and apathy. Warning signs of caregiver burnout can include reduction in productivity, pessimism in personal relationships and emotional fatigue symptoms such as losing patience easily, irritability and depression.
Here is some important self-care information to consider if you have taken on the role of a compassionate caregiver for a loved one:
- Use stress prevention methods. Try to prevent stress overload by pacing activities and tasks, using meditation methods, taking breaks, napping, journaling thoughts and taking part in or developing personal hobbies. Also, you should not be afraid to prioritize tasks that do not require immediate completion.
- Educate yourself. Read and learn as much as you can about your loved one’s illness from doctors and reliable medical sources so that you and a health professional can determine the best caregiving methods possible. If you can, accompany your loved one to doctors’ appointments to take notes and ask questions so that you are informed. The more you know, the more effective your care will be to your beloved family member which in turn can help you feel more confident and relaxed as a caregiver.
- Put your health first. Because caregiving can be physically and emotionally draining, it is important to allow time for rest and recuperation and focus on basic needs such as nutrition and exercise. As a caregiver, you should take preventative measures with your own health not only for yourself but to ensure that you are able to continue taking care of your loved one. These preventative measures include but are not limited to trying to obtain at least eight hours of sleep each night, eating a well-balanced diet, avoiding caffeine and excessive amounts of alcohol. Try to find time to exercise. Even ten minutes a day, such as a brisk walk, can restore your energy and bring you back to caregiving with a renewed freshness.
- Speak up. Don’t hesitate to ask for or accept help from family, friends or professionals when needed. It is important to consider and share physical and emotional limitations with your family and friends so that they are aware how they may provide you with support. Accepting offered assistance allows friends and family to feel fulfilled in their desire to be available to you and your loved one.
- Get Help. Consider in-home care to help ease the stress of caring for your parent or loved, especially if you're doing it all on your own. Even a few hours a week can make all the difference and allow you the freedom to rest or catch up on your day-to-day needs all while knowing your loved one is in good hands. Learn more about Holy Redeemer Support at Home and how in-home care can help you!
- Set limits. You can choose to communicate your limits with involved parties such as doctors, visiting nurses or family so that they know your availability as a caregiver in advance. Communicating your limits as a caregiver can proactively encourage other family members to assist when needed.
- Find a healthy work life balance. Eldercare responsibilities cost employers $13.4 billion a year in medical costs according to the National Alliance for Caregiving. The NHPCO found that a total of $25 billion in lost productivity can be attributed to lateness, absenteeism, loss of efficiency and employee turnover. As a caregiver in the working world, you may want to consider talking to your employer about your needs to minimize stress. Many companies offer informational resources, counseling services and training to assist caregivers. Try talking to your employer about the option to telecommute, utilize flex time or to rearrange your work schedule. If your employer is not familiar with ways to assist you as a caregiver, the NHPCO’s online Caring Connections resource provides employers with advice and specialized brochures on providing flexible work life programs to caregivers.
- Seek support. Consider joining a caregiver support group to confide in others with similar life experiences and circumstances. Also, it is important for you to share your emotions with trusted friends and family or even a counselor or therapist as a release.
- Feel free to say no—or yes. You should allow yourself to decline requests or invitations you feel unable to commit to but permit yourself to change your mind.
- Nurture yourself. As a caregiver you deserve to take short breaks while providing care to your loved one. In addition, you deserve to have time to enjoy friends and family away from the home.
- Smile. Caregiving is not an easy task but laughter is strong medicine. Having a sense of humor is important to keep things in perspective and help you start each day with a fresh outlook.
To learn more about Holy Redeemer Support at Home, call 215-698-3719 for a FREE phone consultation.