When you’re a caregiver, it is not a selfish act to “take a day off;” in fact it is crucial to your being able to carry on and provide care to the aging relatives in your life and under your care. If you’re either the self-appointed or family-designated caregiver for senior relatives you are not alone as there are more than 22.5 million caregivers in the United States today and the number continues to rise.
Taking on the role of providing the primary support for either a disabled or an aging relative can provide emotional rewards but it can also bring sometimes seemingly insurmountable challenges. You’re not alone in feeling that the stressors of being a primary caregiver begin almost immediately; this is especially true if you’re in the Sandwich Generation – those caring not only for aging parents, but also for your own family. The role of caregiver can range from moving an aging parent into your family home to dealing with nursing home issues to simply making certain that your parents, who have decided to age-in-place are taking care of themselves.
How can you avoid burnout and care for yourself as you continue to care for others? Here are our tips:
- You need to understand and acknowledge that you are feeling overwhelmed, stressed and even angry. It is not a character flaw to feel all of these things and then to feel guilty about that. You need to reach out, whether to a family member or a support group, and share your feelings and understand that they are a normal part of being a caregiver.
- Take note of the signs of stress you are feeling. The signs can include resentment at your parents, loss of sleep, the need to sleep more than usual, becoming irritable at events that would typically not impact you, finding that you’re more susceptible to colds or other ailments. If you find yourself in these situations, you need to reach out, ask for help and take a day off to care for yourself.
- In fact, you should arrange for a day or two off a week simply to enjoy yourself. If you have no relatives or friends that live in the area who can relieve you of your duties, consider equipping the home with a home medical alert device and have your relatives wear a medical alert pendant – these devices provide peace of mind for all involved.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help and to tell your parents that you need to either have another relative come in to assist you or you may need to look for the financial resources to hire a part time caregiver so that you can have time for yourself and for your family. If there are specific tasks that you simply can’t get to or don’t want to do, consider hiring someone to do those items.
- Never fail to acknowledge the job that you’ve taken on. It takes a special, loving kind of person to step in and care for an aging relative. The role of caregiver may have originally motivated you and even when you’re feeling frustrated or at your wit’s end, you have taken on a role that allows you to care for a loved one and enjoy special time together. It is not one to be taken lightly and should be looked on with pride of accomplishment.
The time that you spend caring for yourself will allow you to more fully embrace the role of caregiver that you have taken on and will benefit everyone involved.
- Helping Caregivers Deal With Stress (lifefoneblog.com)
- If There’s So Many of You, Why Is Caregiving Still So Lonely? (caregiving.com)