Being a caregiver is a hard vocation. The hours are often endless and sometimes it can be thankless. Much of the work is unpleasant. It’s rewarding and fulfilling, however, and you have a tremendous heart for others. That’s why you do it. As you give all your care and attention, who’s caring for you?
Self Care for Caregivers
Self care is critical for caregivers. Because you have a heart for people, it’s easy to forget about yourself and neglect the care you need. Let this guide remind you it’s not only important, but necessary to take care of yourself, too.
Self Care is First
At the end of the day, you’re only able to give what you have. You need to care for yourself first so you can give your very best to those that need you. You may feel guilty thinking this way, but by doing it you’re doing what’s best for you AND for those you’re caring for. This starts with a mindset. It’s not a selfish act, but a wise and healthy one.
Ask For Help
You may feel like you can’t ask anyone for help, or you have even turned down offers for help because you don’t want to burden others. The fact is caregiving is hard work! Any help you can get from others will lighten your load. Break down the daily and weekly care into separate tasks on a to-do list and give anyone who asks a few options of ways they could help.
Think about it this way, by refusing their help, you’re also robbing them of a blessing. If no one is offering, don’t be afraid to seek help from others who are close to the person. Do the same thing, though, and give them a few options to choose from of ways they could help.
Eat Well and Exercise
This advice is no different than what your doctor would tell you about your health in general. Eat a well-balanced diet. Make sure you’re getting the vitamins and nutrients your body needs for peak performance. Drink plenty of fluids including water. Stay active. Keep your heart healthy and make sure you also get plenty of sleep each night.
Manage Your Stress
Stress makes everything harder. There are a number of factors that can add to your stress as a caregiver. Do you feel like you’re caring voluntarily or did you not have a choice? Your relationship with the person receiving care, personal stress management abilities, the particulars about the care you’re giving, whether you have support, and other things in your life can all affect your stress load.
If you’re feeling stress, start by determining what’s causing it. Accept what you cannot change and work on what you can. Find someone to talk to, get some exercise, and find someone who can give you a weekend off.
Build time in your weekly activities for socializing with friends and family. You need it. It’s not a luxury or an option, it’s essential to your continued well-being. If you need to invoke the help of others to make it possible, don’t hesitate! Go back and read #2 above.
Spending time interacting with others, whether in simple conversation or other social activities, is a basic need everyone has. How much more important is it when you’re a caregiver! Go to the movies, go bowling, or have lunch with a friend. You need people, if anything just to unwind.
It’s easy to get into auto-pilot mode and forget about yourself when you’re a caregiver. For this reason, it’s important to purposefully pause often and self-evaluate. There’s no other way you’ll notice warning signs in your own mental, emotional, and physical health. Pay attention to your inner thoughts and feelings. It may even be helpful to keep a journal.
Talk to Your Doctor
Let your doctor know you’re a caregiver. He or she will help you create a diet and exercise plan and help you monitor your blood pressure and other physical signs of stress and energy drain. Don’t go it alone. Listen to what he or she says. The observation of an unbiased, objective professional will be a good counterbalance to your personal viewpoint and experience. Sometimes it’s easy to get so wrapped up into taking care of another person, it’s hard to see ourselves clearly.
At Unlimited Care Cottages, we not only care about our guests, but also their caregivers and family members. We realize the love and care of loved ones is essential to our guests’ best health and quality of life. We are honored to partner with you in providing the very best care and loving attention to your loved ones who stay in our memory care and assisted living cottages.
Take Care of Yourself
You can only give what you have inside you to give. Personal care is essential to all caregivers and to those they care for. It’s easy to get tired, discouraged, and burnt out. Take the time to make sure you’re taking care of yourself first. Use this guide to self care for caregivers to get started.
For more information on self care tips for caregivers or for a tour of one of our cottages, Contact Us.