Tips for Caring for Yourself as a Caregiver

Add the Good

As a caregiver, you’re probably an expert at making sure the ones in your care get what they need when they need it. Why not do the same for yourself? Something as simple as penciling in as a 10-minute walk every day after dinner or swapping cookies for apples on your grocery list may make a big difference in both long-term health and short-term attitude. So go ahead and sign up for that Zumba class you’ve always wanted to take. It’s a necessity that feels like a luxury.

 

Subtract the Bad

Sometimes building good habits may not be enough to put you on a trajectory to well-being. You need to ditch bad habits too! This could be as simple as tossing all the bags of late-night temptations in your pantry or as tough as quitting smoking. You could also “subtract” by taking control of your environment Marie Kondo style. Could getting rid of dishes that don’t spark joy increase your overall well-being? Only one way to find out!

 

Don’t Go It Alone

If you only take one thing away from this article, we hope it’s this: It’s a-okay to ask for help before you need it. Think of it this way: you don’t start looking for a gas station when your tank’s empty — you fill ’er up before you’re stranded on the shoulder of the road. If you’re feeling like your needle’s approaching empty, reach out and ask for help.

If you’re a professional, your employer might provide counseling benefits. Check with your HR manager for details. There are also resources dedicated to helping healthcare professionals navigate the stress of caregiving, especially in crisis situations like the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic.

If you’re caring for a relative, imagine that caregiving is a football game. Your loved one’s well-being is the end zone. You’ve got the ball, but between you and your goal are giants like exhaustion, financial stress, isolation and anxiety. Do you think you’ll be able to face down these giants on your own?

No! Even the best quarterback in the world wouldn’t get very far without a plan in place and a team of people working toward a common goal. They — and you — need advisors to call on, professionals to count on, experts to rely on, and friends to lean on. Start drafting your “team” as soon as possible. Who can you call when you need to vent? When you need a vacation? Can you count on other family members for financial support? Will your church set up a meal train? What home health or respite care providers do you want to work with? Is there a local teenager willing to mow your grass? Which neighbor would you call in an emergency?

Decide today that you are going to have a quarterback mentality. Make a plan. Make a team. You’re in charge. You’re calling the shots. You’re in control.

If you’re struggling with stress and anxiety as a caregiver, check out the CDC’s recommendations for self-care during crisis for helpful tips and consult your doctor.

 

Bonus Tips for Family Caregivers

If you’re caring for a mom, a dad or a spouse, odds are you don’t have the years of training professional caregivers do. Finding yourself in a caregiving situation can feel a bit like being tossed into the deep end of the pool. Here are a few extra tips to help you navigate this new (and likely stressful) season of your life.

  1. Taking five minutes at the beginning of the day to make a to-do list can help you stay organized and feel more in control.

  2. Research stress management techniques and put them into practice before you’re feeling the pressure.

  3. Isolation can become an issue if you let it. Be proactive about scheduling time with friends, and let them know that you always appreciate invitations even if you can’t always make get-togethers.

  4. Recruit family members, friends and others to share the responsibility of caregiving.

  5. Services like Uber or Lyft are inexpensive ways to make sure your loved one makes his or her appointment if you’re unavailable.

  6. Research respite stays at local senior living communities to ensure your loved one is getting plenty of healthy socialization — and you’re getting a few days to catch your breath.

  7. Connect with a local caregivers support group to voice your concerns, challenges, victories and frustrations. It’s reassuring to know you’re not going through this process alone.
     

The above content is shared for educational purposes only. You must consult your doctor before acting on any content on this website, especially if you have a medical condition. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on our site.

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