Caring for a family member or loved one who is no longer able to live independently can be the full-time job you never planned on having. Caregiving can be one of the most rewarding and loving ‘jobs’ you’ll ever have, but it can also be one of the most demanding. Much rests on the shoulders of a caregiver – not only taking care of household duties like cleaning, cooking, and laundry - but also ensuring health and wellness by helping with medications and personal hygiene needs. On top of an already lengthy list of duties, caregivers are often relied upon to provide companionship and emotional support as well.
The stress felt by a caregiver can lead to ‘Caregiver Burnout’, a condition that displays symptoms of irritability, problems with sleep, weight gain, fatigue, social isolation, and feelings of hopelessness. If you are a caregiver, one of the best ways to care for your loved one is to make sure you’re caring for yourself too. Being a happy and healthy version of yourself will only increase the level of care you can provide for your loved one. Below are some simple self-care tips you can begin putting into practice today.
Self-Care Tips for Caregivers
1) Be Kind to Yourself
Being kind to yourself is the foundation of self-care. Recognize that being a caregiver is hard work and give yourself credit for taking on the tough and complex work that it is. Limit negative self-talk and criticism and release any guilty thoughts when it comes to taking time for your own self-care and well-being. Be willing to extend grace to yourself and to forgive yourself. It’s impossible to be a perfect caregiver all day, every day, so release yourself from these unrealistic expectations.
2) Take Care of Your Own Health
When your life seems to revolve around another person’s health and well-being, it can be all too easy to neglect your own. Take the time to go to the doctor when needed, get routine exams, and get your flu shot. Make exercise a priority – even when facing exhaustion. It will help boost your energy levels and your mood! Try your best to not let convenience rule your diet and eating habits. Seek out real food ingredients that will help fuel your body – not hinder it. And allowing your body to rest and get adequate sleep is vital. Getting the proper rest will help your body recharge and allow you to face whatever challenges the next day may bring.
3) Stay Connected
Being a caregiver can become isolating, which can quickly lead to feelings of depression and helplessness. Even if you feel tired or sad, it’s important to stay connected with friends and a network of support. Having a support system has been scientifically proven to improve your outlook on life and your overall health. A simple phone call to a friend may do the trick in boosting your mood. Support groups for caregivers are often available in communities and can be a great resource for finding understanding and camaraderie with people in a similar life stage. If you are a person of faith, finding others in a Bible study to connect with or spending time alone in prayer can help you feel grounded and refreshed.
4) Take a Break
Everyone needs a break now and then. If your loved one requires 24/7 care, find a friend or volunteer to help out and allow yourself some time to do something you enjoy on your own. Catch a movie, go out to eat, take a walk, or visit a friend. Do something not related to caregiving and try to steer any conversations away from the topic of caregiving during this break. Longer breaks can be arranged by utilizing a paid service like Home Care or Respite Care. These services can allow the caregiver to take a vacation or attend an important family function knowing their loved one is still receiving great care. Residential facilities, like Snyder Village’s Health Center, can provide around-the-clock care for your loved one in a safe environment. Your loved one will enjoy being given the opportunity to participate in the facilities’ planned outings and activities. Respite care in a residential facility can be provided for an overnight stay, for a few days, or for a few weeks, allowing for you to take that vacation without worry.
In-home respite care can be provided by Home Care professionals. This type of care allows your loved one to stay in the comfort and familiarity of their own home while you are away. Home Care professionals can provide companion care, personal care (such as help with bathing and dressing), and homemaker services (cleaning, meal prep, and laundry). Deb Albertson, director of Snyder Village Home Care, notes that she and her team work closely with caregivers and their loved ones to provide various types of coverage and assistance when needed. “Respite care is short-term coverage that provides a break for the caregiver,” she says. “In some cases, our professionals go in and provide coverage 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and in other cases, we help out with transportation, like running to the grocery store or taking them to a doctor’s appointment.”
5) Laugh Often
In the midst of a hard day or a hard week, it’s important to remember your sense of humor. Take the time to watch your favorite comedy television show or movie, read the comics, or watch a funny video online. Cute animal videos can do a world of good for your mood! If possible, share the humor with the person you are caring for. Laughing together can be some of the best medicine for what may be an intense and challenging situation.
You don’t have to succumb to ‘Caregiver Burnout’ if you make yourself and your well-being a priority. It’s not only your loved one who deserves your love and care – You deserve to be cared for as well!
Snyder Village in Metamora is a life plan community that offers independent living in its cottages and apartments. Snyder Village also features assisted living, memory care, and a health center along with physical, occupational, and speech therapy on site. Its home care services support residents in Peoria, Tazewell, Woodford, and Marshall Counties and can be reached at (309) 367-2300. For more information about all the services offered at Snyder Village, call (309) 367-4300 or visit www.snydervillage.com.