As our parents and loved ones age, it’s common for them to lean on us for support. In some cases, a loved one’s health may require us to become their primary caregiver. Caring for a loved one is the right thing to do, but it doesn’t come without a cost, be it financial or otherwise. Most caregivers are not solely caring for their aged loved one. They may have young children to care for, a career outside of the home, a spouse, or any number of obligations that make being the primary caregiver a tasking job.
Stress is very common among caregivers and it can have negative effects on our health. There are some tell-tale signs of caregiver stress, which include:
- Extreme fatigue
- Frequent headaches
- Weight fluctuation
- Lost interest in hobbies and activities
Knowing how to set boundaries and take time for yourself while caring for another is very difficult. It is, however, very important. When we are healthy mentally and physically, it’s easier for us to deliver the care our loved ones need and deserve.
Here are some tips to help caregivers ensure they care for themselves as well:
You can’t take on everything alone. If your parent needs a primary caregiver for a few years before moving into a facility, try to plan out that time and set milestones for helping your loved one get from one step to the next. Likewise, if there is a prolonged care plan decided by a doctor, try to put a realistic timeframe around those pieces.
Also, remember to set personal goals. For instance, it may be important for you to set aside an hour each day that is just for you. This could be a time where you can perform an activity that you enjoy. It could be exercise, reading a book, sewing, or whatever activity will bring you joy and engage you in a relaxing way.
Prioritize each day
When caring for another, it can feel like every day is hectic. But not everything has to be done in a single day. Trust your instincts and prioritize the immediate needs. If there are appointments and errands to run, try to limit them to what will make that day more manageable. If some things fall by the wayside, that’s okay. There’s always tomorrow.
Seek support from family and friends
Asking for help can be difficult, especially when you are keen on others’ schedules and priorities. But your friends and family can be valuable resources. If only for help cooking a meal or running an errand, having an extra set of hands can make all the difference.
But if you never ask, the help doesn’t come. It takes courage to say you need help, but don’t feel like you can’t ask. The answer from some may be no, but there is always someone who will take compassion and aid you in caring for your loved one.
Seek support from your community
The biggest solace you can find is knowing that you’re not alone. Many people are the sole provider of their aging loved one and are undertaking the same difficult tasks you are. And these people are in your local community. By joining a local support group, you can gain friends that are experiencing the same difficulties you are, have navigated the path you’re taking, and can give you the support and encouragement you need.
Ask a professional
We all have our limits. There may be resources you’re unaware of, techniques you’ve never thought to try, or new advances in medicine that only a professional can keep a pulse on. Lean on professionals for advice and support. Your loved one’s primary care provider is an excellent resource of knowledge and resources, but there are also many websites, organizations, and independent professionals that can give you insight into how to balance caring for your loved one and yourself.
It may be difficult to accept time for yourself or support from others, but your health depends on it. Everyone needs help from others, and you are no exception. Remember to take time for yourself and be patient.