Being a caregiver can be rewarding, though it can come with a significant amount of stress. You can sometimes become so wrapped up in caring for your loved one that you fail to take care of your own physical, mental, and emotional stress. While quitting this job is not likely an option, there are ways that you can help manage the stress that comes with being a caregiver.
1. Investigate Local Caregiving Resources
Since aging in place is becoming more of the norm instead of the exception, there is a multitude of resources in many communities that can provide support for caregivers. You just may have to do a little research to find them. There are often local senior transport options if you are unable to transport them everywhere they need to go. You also may find places that offer adult day care or respite services to provide you with a much-needed break. These programs often offer activities with other seniors which can help your loved one socialize and even help keep their mind sharp. Another thing to consider is joining local caregiver support groups where you can find out valuable information and also find a support system with caregivers who are going through the same things that you are.
2. Don't Be Afraid to Ask for Help
You might feel that it is your job to do it all on your own when you choose to be a caregiver, but that is the easiest way to experience burnout. Consider delegating various tasks to other family member, friends, or those willing to help. This can include grocery shopping, picking up prescriptions, transportation, or even sitting with your loved one while you get some errands done. Have a list of regular helpers that you trust to help take some of the tasks off of your list.
3. If You Work, Consider Taking a Leave
Caring for a loved one, while balancing the responsibilities of a job can make you feel extremely overwhelmed. Depending on the size of your employer, you may have the right under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to care for a relative, without risk to your job or losing your benefits. If available, your human resource department can provide you with the necessary forms and information to get your leave approved.
4. Take the Time to Get Organized
Being a caregiver can leave you with a multitude of tasks each day as well as a list of appointments. It can be easy to get distracted or off task, especially when juggling so much. Start by making a regular schedule as well as daily task lists that can help you stay on track and make sure that everything gets done. Prioritize your tasks by importance so that if your day gets derailed, the critical tasks get completed.
5. Take Some Time to Focus on Your Health
It is impossible to take care of someone else if you are not healthy. Physical, emotional, and mental health are all vital to prevent burnout and reduce stress. Make sure that you get enough sleep, proper nutrition, and physical activity throughout the day. Make time for regular doctor appointments, and if your emotional or mental health is suffering, consider making time to see a therapist. Sometimes being able to put the focus on yourself and your needs can be a stress reliever.
By allowing others to help, taking advantage of local resources, and maintaining your own health, you can help reduce the stress that comes with being a caregiver. Remember that to be the best caregiver you can be, you need to feel your best, which means taking care of your own stress so that you can tend to all your loved one's needs.