A caregiver can only give good care by first caring for themselves. Too often, overworked caregivers wind up in the hospital because they are sacrificing everything for their loved one. Caring for another can be very stressful, especially if that person’s condition is worsening. That’s why it’s important to take time to enjoy life, maintain a positive attitude and continue to learn about caregiving and health care options.
When watching a loved one age, it can be difficult to reconcile feelings of duty with the ability to provide care. Those caring for their parents in their ‘second childhood’ may feel obligated to help them for as long and as much as possible, especially as the eldest sibling or the one who lives closest to them. These feelings are natural, but when they lead to resentment from caring full-time without pay or revised expectations, it may be time for a break.
Take time alone
Many caregivers have to be reminded that caring for themselves before others is not only okay, but necessary. Anger and frustration make it impossible to give good care. The best way to combat stress and negativity is exercise. If possible, involve your loved one. Go for a walk, garden together or do other activities outdoors. If your loved one has trouble getting around, take at least an hour for yourself every day to be active. Make sure you’re sleeping enough, at least eight hours a night. Don’t spend free time drinking, smoking or giving into other vices; instead, read, relax or be with friends. If you’re still stressed, something else may be at play.
Sometimes we find ourselves in mental states that do not contribute to our happiness. We think our situation is negative and we stay in this mindset until our day is done, only to repeat it again. It can be hard to change a bad attitude, especially if it’s regarding something unenjoyable, but all it takes is practice. Identify where those negative feelings come from and change their cause.
If there’s no discernible cause, look deeper. What’s your personal philosophy on life? Some people are always waiting for a better future. They imagine that once a certain event passes they will be happy. They wait, and the event may or may not be what they thought. Still they do not find satisfaction and the cycle repeats. Instead, they should enjoy what they have and offer themselves perspective: moments spent caring for a loved one could be some of their last together.
Stay informed and connected
Be aware of what your body, mind and loved ones are telling you. Make sure you know who your loved one’s doctors are, what medications they take, and what plan of care may be necessary if, or when, their health worsens. Learn about other care options in case the above tips aren’t enough. A support group can keep you afloat during a hard time: talk to friends, family members and other people in your life to unload stress, receive positive feedback, and gather opinions and advice. Transfer the positivity your group of friends offered to the person you’re caring for. This will give them more confidence, better health and assurance that you’re both in a healthy caregiving relationship.
- Eldercare Locator
- Medicare Helpful Contacts
- Family Care Navigator – State-by-State Help for Family Caregivers
- What It Takes to Be a Caregiver
- Caregiving Tips for Families of Children or Adults with Disabilities
- U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Caregiver Support
- State Respite Coalitions
- Your Local Aging and Disability Resource Center and Area Agencies on Aging
- AARP Caregiving Resource Center
- “Prepare to Care” Planning Guide for Families