Self-Care Tips for the Caregivers
November is National Family Caregivers Month, a time to recognize and honor family caregivers across the country. There are nearly 48 million caregivers in the U.S., and many are caring for more than one person. Unpaid family caregivers provide 36 billion hours of care every year; if paid, that would be valued at $600 billion. More than 60% of these family caregivers also work outside the home.
Whew—that’s a lot! If you are one of those family caregivers, we want to say thank you! We also want you to take care of yourself. Here are five self-care tips for all the amazing caregivers out there.
- Put on your own oxygen mask first. Everybody needs some time to do what they enjoy! Make your own needs a priority. If this makes you feel guilty, recognize that in order to be an effective caregiver, you need to be healthy, alert and fully present. This can only happen if you’re making an effort to focus on yourself regularly—whether that’s spending some time with family and friends, taking a weekend trip, or walking at a local park.
- Own your schedule and boundaries. Most caregivers want to do all that they can to provide good care for their loved one. But everyone has limits. Let your loved one know the times you’re available to provide assistance and stick to a pre-arranged schedule. If something comes up that alters that schedule, let your loved one know and help them find an alternate source of assistance, if possible.
- Feel the feelings without judgement. Caregiving can be a roller coaster of emotions. Understand that all feelings are normal. You may feel sadness at the changes in your loved one. You may feel some anger or resentment at the role you have taken on and that it’s taking time away from your career or other family members. Acknowledge these feelings and understand they are completely normal and part of the role of being a caregiver.
- Share your situation with those you trust. Often, just being able to talk to someone—a friend or a trained therapist—about what’s going on can make a huge difference in a caregiver’s well-being. If you have children, explain why you may have less time to spend with them these days. Not only will the act of sharing help reduce some stress, but the person you talk to may have suggestions on how to help ease the stress you’re facing.
- Know that help is available. Don’t be afraid to lean on family and friends, even if it’s just to stop by the grocery store, to pick up a prescription at the pharmacy, or to plan more frequent visits to your loved one’s senior living community. Family members who live at a distance might be willing to contribute to the care costs you incur—a great way for them to know they’re both helping your loved one and helping you! Use resources like Meals on Wheels, local church groups, and the local Area Agency on Aging to provide you with support. Lifesource has a Home Health Care program to lend professional assistance.
Perhaps the most important thing for caregivers to remember is: You are not alone. When you connect with other caregivers, whether it’s for support, to get information, or just to talk to someone who understands, it can make life feel less isolating. And when you are supported, so are the individuals you care for.