Being a full-time caregiver often means full-time work and full-time stress. You probably didn't plan on becoming a caregiver; you may have fallen into the role, out of necessity. With no training and no time to plan for the situation, you do your best to provide the greatest care possible for your loved one. However, if you are going to survive your newfound role as a caregiver, you need to read these four tips — for your own sanity.
Being a caregiver is stressful in itself. However, there are times when you may feel unusually overwhelmed. When this happens, it is time for you to take a time-out and assess your feelings. Once you have a good idea of where your emotions are in the scheme of caregiving, you can create a plan.
If you are just having a stressful moment, you can combat it by taking a two-minute breathing time-out. Take two minutes; breathe in slowly through your nose, and exhale slowly through your mouth. While doing this, close your eyes and take notice of any part of your body that feels tense, while consciously relaxing that part of your body. Hold an image of a peaceful place in your mind. For just a few moments, allow yourself to travel to small paradise, which will allow you some reprieve from momentary stress.
However, if you find yourself snapping at your loved one or feeling angry much of the time, you may need to consider that you need more than just a momentary break. Now is the time to identify your negative emotions and learn the best way to handle them. The sooner you realize the issue and take steps to correct it, the sooner you will feel better and handle your situation in a healthier manner for all involved.
It is important to take time away from caregiving each day. You may need to enlist the help of trusted friends or family members to provide you some relief. On days when no one is available to help you, sneak in some personal time while your loved one naps or after he or she goes to bed. If necessary, look into hiring someone a few times a week, for respite care.
During the time you have alone, don't try to catch up on other responsibilities that are piling up, such as doing dishes or cleaning the house. This time needs to be about you. Take time to sit outside in the sunshine and absorb some vitamin D. Sit in a quiet corner, and read a few chapters of your favorite novel. Go for a walk. Take a hot bubble bath. Drink a cup of herbal tea. Watch a comedy show. Anything that will allow you to decompress for a half hour or more will provide a great recharge.
When taking care of loved ones on a full-time basis, it is easy to isolate yourself. Your entire world may begin to revolve around one person. Isolation occurs without warning, so it is important that you are vigilant about connecting with other people. Having friends drop by the house is nice for both you and your loved one. It changes your daily routine a bit. You both have the chance to see new faces and visit with different people.
You can also use this as a way of getting help with chores around the house. Consider asking a neighbor to bring dinner over one night. This gives you the opportunity to visit with more people, while marking a task off your to-do list; and your neighbor will feel good about helping out.
Keep family members in the loop as well. Ask each of them to stop by for a visit on different days and at different times. Have them help with a chore or two as well while they are visiting. If each person does one thing, it may not be much to him or her, but it will sure help lighten your load.
Consider joining a caregiver support group. Some groups allow you to connect with people one-on-one, while others connect online. Joining a local group will get you out of the house and allow you to spend time with others who understand what trials you are facing and may have advice for you. However, joining an online support group gives you the freedom to hop online when you have a free moment or when you need more immediate support.
Caregivers often get so involved in taking care of their loved ones that they neglect their own health care. It is important for you to remember that if you are not at your healthiest, you will not be able to give your loved one the best possible care, which he or she deserves.
While it is always important to have regular medical and dental check-ups, it is even more important to go in when you are under increased stress. Your body may feel some effects of additional stress; however, you may not be consciously aware of those changes. For example, you may have high blood pressure, but you have not felt or paid attention to the symptoms. A routine exam may bring these issues to light, so you can begin treatment to keep these stress-related issues under control.
Being a caregiver is one of the hardest jobs you will ever have, but it is also one of the most rewarding. Each day, take some time to do something that you enjoy. Make connections with people. Always keep your scheduled doctor appointments and take care of your health. Take care of yourself first and foremost — always keep in mind that if you are not at the top of your game, you will not be able to give the best care to your loved one.