Being a caregiver can be incredibly rewarding, but it can also be stressful. It is easy to lose sight of our selves when caring for others. Caregivers often find themselves in a parenting role which can be daunting when they have their own families and themselves to take care of. It is very common for caregivers to feel an array of emotions or ‘caregiver stress’ and it’s important to understand the signs that your own health and well-being are suffering so you can learn how to tackle it.
In your role as caregiver, you may be asked to be the liaison between a loved one and their medical care team, as well as take care of their personal care needs, and provide emotional support, among other things. Handling all this can really take a toll.
According to the Mayo Clinic, family members who are actively caring for an older adult often don’t self-identify as a “caregiver.” Recognizing this role can help caregivers receive the support they need.
Here are four ways to help manage caregiver stress:
- Accept that you can’t do it all. In most cases, this is not your full-time job. You are one person and can only handle so much responsibility. Try setting realistic expectations and prioritize the list of tasks to be done. Once your tasks are prioritized, maybe you can break up the list over a two-week period versus trying to complete everything in one week, for example. Establish a routine for your loved one so both of you know what to expect. Feel free to say “no” when certain tasks are not doable or reset the timeframe to make it work for you.
- Bring in others to help. You might be reluctant to ask for help but don’t fall victim to this. Try and balance the responsibilities among family members, if possible, so all tasks are not solely on you to accomplish. Leverage delivery services for food, prescriptions, clothing, etc. to cut down on your time spent driving from one place to another.
- Don’t’ forget to take care of you. Make sure your loved ones know that you have days off (if doable) unless there is an emergency. Use those days off to focus on your mental and physical health. Connect with other caregivers to share experiences and regularly communicate with friends and family for continued support. On your days off, do some meal prepping to ensure you are eating a well-balanced healthy diet through your busy week and get some exercise in while you have the extra time.
- Remember to stop and live in the moment. As each busy day passes packed with tasks to tackle and check off your list, it’s easy to forget to spend quality time with your loved one. When you take your loved one to a doctor’s appointment, stop by the park and take a nice walk together or when you drop off a prescription, stay a few extra minutes to laugh together while watching his/her favorite show on TV. You and your loved one will treasure those special moments.
Taking care of yourself will allow you to take better care of others. If you are struggling and/or need information on specific topics, there are many caregiver resources available, click here for more information. Inter Valley Health Plan also offers online classes for caregivers. For information about class times, visit: https://www.ivhp.com/vitality