It is extremely important to take care of yourself before you can properly care for an elderly loved one. AARP has provided some tips to help family caregivers manage stress and avoid neglecting their own mental and physical health.
- Stay Healthy – Increased stress may induce urges for unhealthy foods such as salty snacks or alcohol. As a family caregiver, it’s important that you resist these temptations and make a concerted effort to regularly consume nutritious meals. It is best to accompany this diet with consistent exercise, even if it requires finding caregiving assistance during this time.
A regular sleep schedule is vital to your health and quick naps are essential if you find that lack of sleep is affecting your caregiving abilities.
Schedule regular checkups with your primary care physician. Speak with a medical professional immediately if you experience any symptoms of depression such as extreme sadness, apathy or hopelessness.
- Stay Connected – It is important to remain in contact with friends and family to prevent isolation, which is known to increase stress and cause depression. Whether it’s a weekly meeting for coffee or a monthly movie night, it is imperative to your mental health that you maintain relationships outside of your family caregiving.
- Get Help – Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Trying to tackle everything by yourself can become overwhelming and induce more stress. Make a list of things that need to be done and recruit friends and family for assistance.
- Use Available Resources – There are a variety of community resources available to help alleviate some of your caregiving responsibilities. Consider using eldercare locator to find a home health aide. Additionally, you can find volunteers to help complete tasks by using the faith-based senior care database or by contacting your local senior center.
- Take a Break – Taking a break from your family caregiving responsibilities is crucial to your overall well-being. Start by rewarding yourself with a weekend off and progress toward longer vacations as you see fit. During this time, consider respite care by friends or other relatives, or short-term residency at an assisted living facility. Furthermore, some communities offer adult day health centers that provide supervised group care to seniors, five days a week.
- Express your Feelings –Repressing your feelings is mentally exhausting and can eventually lead to higher stress levels. It is important to share your emotions with your friends and family, or even another caregiver that shares similar experiences. If you find that your emotions are affecting your ability to care for your elderly loved one, then it is important to seek help from a professional counselor or caregiver support group.
- Relax and Recover – It is crucial to not lose sight of the things that are important to you. Doing something you enjoy such as reading, walking or listening to music can help rejuvenate you. Meditation or deep-breathing techniques are also powerful tools for maintaining control of your body and mind.
- Organization is Key – Prioritize your responsibilities with calendars and to-do lists. Start from the top and complete the most important tasks first. Don’t be discouraged if you are unable to manage everything. If you find yourself starting to neglect necessary tasks, it is time to recruit help and use these lists to delegate work. (see #3)
- The Power of “No” – As a family caregiver, you must overcome the urge to try and handle everything yourself. Avoid taking on more activities, projects or financial obligations than you can handle. Don’t feel guilty saying “no” to something that may overwhelm you. Just explain yourself honestly and remember saying “no” to them, is like saying “yes” to yourself.
- Stay Positive – Negativity will only exacerbate problems and should be avoided at all costs. Instead of dwelling on things you are incapable of controlling, take a moment to recognize how rewarding everything you have done for your elderly loved one has been.
Family caregiving can also sometimes create conflicts between relatives. Fortunately, elder care mediators are available to prevent these problems from escalating. The Huffington Post offers more insight on this relatively new resource and you can find a mediator at mediate.com.
- Put Safety First – If your elderly loved one has experienced an injury or suffers from reduced mobility, navigating their home may be a challenge. Helping them get up and down the stairs on a daily basis can be an immensely stressful experience. If you find yourself in this scenario, consider a Stannah Stairlift. With minimal home modification required, a Stannah Stairlift offers you peace-of-mind, knowing that your elderly loved one can safely and independently traverse the stairs of their home.
By emphasizing the importance of caring for yourself and making a concerted effort to manage your stress, you can ensure you’re able to excel as a family caregiver without mentally exhausting yourself.