By Elaina Thomakos, Care Communication Liaison
As a caregiver, it is often hard to find time to spend solely on yourself.
Many caregivers tend to put the needs of their loved ones over their own needs. This can result in the declining mental and physical health of the caregiver, ultimately negatively impacting both the caregiver and their loved one. To avoid burnout, it is necessary for caregivers to practice self-care so that they can continue to provide high-level care to their loved ones.
It is important to take care of ourselves before we can start to effectively help others.
1. Find time away from the role. Make time in your busy schedule for an activity that you love but seem to never have time for anymore. This can be a hobby like reading or painting, or just sitting down and watching your favorite show undisturbed. Participating in activities outside of caregiving can be a needed stress reliever and allow you to return to caregiving feeling more refreshed and energized.
2. Exercise. Many people are often reluctant to start an exercise routine because it can seem like a daunting task. Exercising and getting active can be as simple as taking a short walk, playing outside with your dog, or even doing work around the house. Exercise can help to improve energy levels and promote better sleep.
3. Take care of your own health. Caregivers will often neglect their own health in order to spend more time focusing on the role of caregiving. Because of this, caregivers are more likely to experience issues like depression, substance abuse, weight gain, and chronic conditions like high cholesterol and high blood pressure.
4. Eat healthily. It’s easy after a long day to grab a quick meal from a fast-food place or heat up a frozen meal, but the food choices we make can have a direct impact on how we feel. Making a simple change in your diet, such as swapping an apple for a candy bar as a snack, can increase energy levels and mood, and can be the first step in making healthier choices at other meals. Skipping meals is also common when short on time and when the focus is on your loved one but making the time to eat regularly throughout the day can decrease stress levels and fatigue.
5. Join support groups. Support groups comprised of other caregivers are available both in the community and online. Talking to other people that are going through similar experiences can be a helpful reminder that you are not alone and can provide insight into caregiving methods and how other caregivers practice self-care. Participating in a social group can also prevent feelings of isolation that often come with caregiving.
6. Utilize the help of professionals. Caregiving can take a toll on all aspects of a caregiver, particularly on their mental health. Mental health professionals can provide resources on how to practice self-care as a caregiver, as well as help to treat any conditions that may arise as a result of caregiving, such as depression or anxiety.
7. Don’t be afraid to ask for and accept help. It is important to remember that you are not alone and that you do not have to navigate caregiving alone. Reach out to the people around you, including family members and friends, to assist with caring for your loved one. Other resources are available to caregivers in need of assistance, including caregiver support groups and care management services. Care managers can provide education on care options and have a wealth of knowledge on navigating various scenarios that may arise throughout the process of caregiving. Utilizing a care manager to coordinate the many aspects of your loved one’s care can help to ease the stress of caregiving.
8. Get enough sleep. Sleep is often one of the first things to get overlooked when tasks start to pile up but getting adequate sleep should become a priority for caregivers. People are able to function at their highest level when they are well-rested, which is vital to providing quality care as a caregiver.
9. Avoid feelings of guilt. Caregivers can sometimes experience feelings that they are not doing enough to care for their loved ones, especially in situations of long-distance caregiving. Recognizing that caregiving is not an easy task and acknowledging that you are doing the best you can is a vital form of self-care.
10. Set goals. Caregiving can seem like an endless list of tasks that need to get done with not enough time to do them. It’s easy to become overwhelmed but setting both short- and long-term goals can help to ease the stress of trying to accomplish too much at once. A part of setting goals can also include scheduling breaks for yourself and aiming to practice self-care more often.
About The Option Group: Founded in 2010, The Option Group’s compassionate team of experienced Certified Life Care Managers serves families, their loved ones, medical professionals, and professional family advisors in Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Delaware. The firm understands the challenges of caring for an individual who needs assistance due to aging, dementia, disability, or serious illness. Their skilled providers possess over 100 years of combined experience navigating the healthcare maze and accessing hundreds of quality resources. The Option Group helps families spend quality time with their loved ones, providing clear choices that lead to better care. For more information, visit www.theoptiongroup.net or call 410-667-0266 (MD) or 717-287-9900 / 610-885-8899 (PA) / or 302-362-9057 (DE).