Caring for a loved one can be one of the most selfless and compassionate acts that you can do for another person. It can also be incredibly challenging, demanding and draining. There are the physical and emotional aspects of caregiving, as well as the challenges of navigating the logistics of providing care. It may feel at times that you simply do not have any time or energy left to care for yourself.
Caring for the caregiver (that’s YOU!) is essential. Burnout is unavoidable if you do not take some time to care for yourself. It is like treading water; eventually you will need a break, or you will sink.
It is very hard when you are in the midst of a crisis, or deep in the role of being a primary caregiver, to believe that finding time to care for yourself is even possible, but it is! Below are a few ways that you can care for yourself as you care for your loved one.
- Ask for help. There are people around you that care about you and your loved one too, but they don’t know what to do. Tell them exactly what you need. People that care about you want to help you. When someone offers you help, give yourself permission to say: “I need paper towels, laundry detergent and milk. The next time you go to the store could you pick these up for me?” or “I haven’t vacuumed the house in a month. It is really starting to get to me and I am feeling very tired.” Be specific; people often want to assist in some way but won’t know what you really need unless you tell them directly.
- Take a break. Even five minutes can go a long way. Sit quietly, take some deep breaths, stretch, read something you enjoy, or meditate. Five minutes of peace can be just enough to help you to get through a difficult day.
- Get support. There are caregiver support groups in the community where people in similar circumstances can come together, learn from each other, and share experiences. Despite how isolating and lonely being a primary caregiver can feel at times, know that you are not alone.
- Give yourself a break. You are doing the best that you can, and you don’t need to be hard on yourself at this time. It is inevitable that some things will fall through the cracks. Try to prioritize and give yourself permission to set some things aside for a while.
- Talk to a professional. There are Care Managers, Social Workers, Nurses and Geriatricians that specialize in working with people just like you! These professionals have the knowledge and experience to be able to assess your particular situation and offer specific recommendations. They can also take some tasks off of your plate. There are resources out there that you may not know about that might be exactly what you need at this particular time. Making a call to a professional who has navigated this process many times before with other families can be priceless.