Caregivers often sacrifice all of themselves — mind, body, and spirit — to tend to their aging loved one's needs. However, burnout is common among family caregivers and can lead to worse quality of care or even a deteriorating relationship between the caregiver and relative.
To keep yourself relaxed and destressed, here are seven simple ways to practice self-care when you’re caring for an elderly parent or relative, enabling you to continue supporting your loved one without burning out.
1. Reduce personal stress
The way we perceive a situation contributes to much of our personal stress, so it’s important to remember you’re not alone in your senior caregiving experience. To avoid overwhelming personal stress levels, make sure to keep an eye on your own stress-related symptoms, such as: irritability, sleep problems, and forgetfulness. It’s also important to identify your sources of stress, including what you can and cannot change, and find stress-reducing activities that work for you.
2. Set personal wellness goals
Make sure to set personal wellness goals and decide what you want to accomplish within a specific time frame. These goals might be to feel healthier, get more help with caregiving tasks, or even take a break from caregiving.
It’s important to remember that some goals are too large to complete in one try, and it’s better to break them down into smaller steps. Understand that you cannot do everything, and be realistic about the goals you set, especially the time frame in which you want to complete them.
3. Adapt solution-based thinking
While it’s difficult to find solutions to long-term or complex problems right away, it’s an important tool in caregiving. First, make sure you identify the problem. Then, make a list of any possible solutions, considering different perspectives when looking at the problem. Try one solution on the list, then evaluate how well it went, and if it doesn’t work, then either try another solution or accept that this problem may not be solvable right now. Make sure you use other resources, such as family, friends, and senior care professionals.
4. Ask for and accept help
Many people find it difficult to ask for and accept help from others, but sharing the workload with another family member can ease your own stress about your loved one’s condition and circumstances. When asking someone for help, come prepared with a list of specific ways that person can help you. Additionally, don’t wait until you’re overwhelmed to ask for assistance; reach out to appropriate community resources, friends, family members, and professionals as soon as possible when you’re feeling overwhelmed.
5. Speak with your physician
While family caregivers often talk to physicians about the health of their elderly loved one, they seldom discuss their own health. If you’re experiencing negative health symptoms as a result of your caregiver duties, it’s important to discuss those concerns with your physician as well. To ensure constructive communication, prepare a list of questions for the physician regarding your most urgent needs.
6. Stay physically active
Caring for an elderly loved one doesn’t always leave much time for hitting the gym. However, simple physical activities like walking, gardening, and even your household chores are enough to help you maintain your good health. Exercise promotes sleep, boosts your mood, improves mental health, and increases your energy levels. Find some physical activities you enjoy, and if possible, consider inviting your senior loved one to join you for a low-intensity workout.
7. Listen to (and explore) your emotions
Our emotions are important indicators as to what is happening to us. Sometimes, it can feel like your emotions control you rather than the other way around — and that’s a sign that you need to slow down.
Senior caregiving is an emotional process and can often involve intense feelings. It’s important to listen to your emotions, however negative or painful they may be, and take appropriate action to remedy them at the core. Consult a professional if you need help and explore ways to better manage and process your emotions.
Could a senior living community be right for your family?
Caring for a senior loved one can be time-consuming and overwhelming. If you're starting to feel like it's too much pressure and damaging to your own health, consider lessening the burden of care by moving your loved one into a senior living community that can provide round-the-clock care for their needs.
If you need help finding the right senior living community for your loved one, Welcome Home Senior Services & Placement Co. offers free concierge services to help you choose the perfect assisted living, independent living, or memory care facility in Florida. Contact us today to discuss your needs.