Caring for an aging parent or a child with a disability is a labor of love and devotion. It’s also exhausting and can be financially ruinous. When caregivers neglect their own needs, they can’t provide the necessary level of care and compassion for their loved one or client. Learn what you should know about self-care for caregivers.
What Is Self-Care?
The definition of “self-care” might seem obvious, but one person’s bubble bath is another person’s stress test. Detaching oneself from the needs of a loved one or client can feel like a betrayal.
But a caregiver won’t benefit from rest when they are constantly worrying about what’s happening when they’re not there. Caregivers must consider what activities help them feel rested and restored. It could be five minutes of meditation, a five-K run, or a five-dollar decaf mocha latte.
Many family caregivers worry that if they take time for themselves, their loved one will suffer. Caring for a parent with dementia or Alzheimer’s or raising a child with a disability can cause caregivers to think they must be present 24/7. They feel guilty if they so much as get a good night’s sleep.
But an exhausted caregiver is a distracted, irritable, forgetful caregiver. Mistakes will happen; patience will wear thin, and they can’t offer the positive and uplifting attention their loved one requires. What can a caregiver do to avoid burnout?
Caregivers can get so deep into their duties that they believe they’re the only ones who can effectively meet their loved one’s needs. Learning to accept help is a major aspect of self-care for caregivers.
Make a list of tasks that a sibling, friend, or neighbor could do for you and your loved one. It could be as simple as a trip to the grocery store or dry cleaners or taking your loved one around the block in their wheelchair for 20 minutes on a sunny day.
Try not to ask one person to do the same thing repeatedly. Make a list of everyone who might be able to do something. Just a few hours a week can be long enough to attend a yoga class, go for a run, or meet a friend for lunch.
When a family caregiver feels like they’re the only person their loved one has, they’re destined for burnout. Home care and social service agencies, friends, community organizations, and congregations can help. Caregivers should be proactive in reaching out for help before they hit the burnout wall.
Eat, Breathe, Sleep, and Exercise
The basics of self-care for caregivers are the same as everyone else’s. Eating healthy, staying hydrated, getting a good night’s sleep, exercising, socializing, and meditating all help.
Self-care for caregivers is an essential part of any caregiving situation. Build self-care into your day, and you and your loved one will both benefit.