While traveling in an airplane, we are always advised to put on our oxygen mask first before helping others. The reason is obvious – we can only help others if we help ourselves. This analogy can be applied to caregiving.
Self-care for family caregivers is a crucial yet sometimes overlooked aspect. It’s essential to set some time aside to unwind and relax. The senior’s condition may not allow a caregiver to go on a vacation or treat themselves to a day at the spa.
However, that isn’t always necessary. It’s about finding time for meditation, exercise, or yoga for spiritual, emotional, and physical wellbeing. Hence, we have compiled the five self-care tips for caregivers that would ultimately benefit the patient as well.
1. Find a Support Group
A sole family caregiver often feels lonely or helpless given the circumstances. For this reason, it’s crucial to seek help and join an online/offline support group.
Understanding other people’s experiences who are undergoing something similar and having the opportunity to vent does wonder for relieving the caregiver stress.
Moreover, several other information sources such as Lotsa Helping Hands, Family Caregiver Alliance, and AARP Caregiving Resource Center could help cover daily costs and introduce family caregivers to state and federal programs, veteran and insurance benefits, etc.
Besides, some community agencies, synagogues, and churches offer round-the-clock services, including adult respite daycare, housekeeping, home health aides, transportation, and hot meal delivery. In essence, there’s plenty of help available, and sole caregivers should seek that.
2. Set Long-Term Goals
When we talk about self-care ideas for caregivers, setting long-term goals takes precedence. One should have something to look forward to after three to six months or even a year. This tip is vital to keep a positive spirit and stay motivated.
Family caregivers can set any of the following goals:
- Walk at least four times a week for 30 minutes
- Get a routine physical checkup
- Give yourself a break whenever possible
- Engage in hobbies
- Seek help for caregiving tasks such as preparing meals and bathing
- Career goals and other personal goals
Some of these goals may look too big to accomplish all of a sudden. We recommend dividing these goals into smaller chunks and proceeding step by step. Make an action plan if you will. That way, caregivers can stay on track and measure their success after a few months.
3. Organize Important Documents
Taking care of an aging loved one requires a lot of medical, legal, and financial affairs. Organizing essential documents is thus the key to alleviating unnecessary stress. Besides, it eliminates the chances of wasting time finding these documents when needed.
You can begin with creating a list of documents such as:
- Retirement documents
- Medical records
- Insurance policies
A reluctance to plan the final years is understandable. However, failing to do so can leave both the patient and family caregivers at financial risk. Therefore, organizing key documents is one of the most critical self-care tips for caregivers.
4. Practice Gratitude
The feeling of gratitude is hard to come by for family caregivers. However, all they need is a change of perspective. Creating a list of good things that one feels grateful for is a great technique.
Having a “can-do” spirit and positive attitude is important for both family caregivers and seniors. The entire caregiving journey does have challenging days, but it also has rewarding days.
Taking time off social media, maintaining a gratitude journal, and enjoying nature are few self-care ideas for caregivers to stay happy and healthy. Finding happiness in life’s little moments is what matters in this journey.
5. Give Yourself Credit
The caregiving journey is no less than a roller coaster. It’s natural to feel anger, guilt, resentment at times, whatever the context may be. However, it’s important to remind family caregivers that they are only human.
Answering the same question 50 times or changing diapers is not easy. Feeling frustrated doesn’t make them bad people. But instead of venting it on the elderly, they should seek help or find a healthy outlet.
Every now and then, caregivers should give themselves credit and stop beating themselves up! From writing the feelings down to talking about them with a friend can help.