Self-care for family caregivers: For your mental and physical health

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Self-care for family caregivers
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

Here is Holly with important tips on self-care for family caregivers.

Being a caregiver is difficult, not only physically. It also affects you emotionally. From the physical exhaustion that inevitably occurs after spending days lifting and caring for your loved one, to the emotional exhaustion you may suffer after seeing a gradual decline in your loved one. Thus, caring for your health is a necessity.

Recognizing why taking care of YOU matters

There are many recommended ways that you can better care for yourself, but the first step is acknowledging that you need to care for yourself. As they say, when you prepare for a flight, you need to put your own oxygen mask on first, and then care for others around you.

Caring for your loved one is the same way. You must take care of your own physical and mental health first, before you can care for your loved one’s physical and mental health.

Self-care for family caregivers: Reduce your overall stress

For many people, this point is almost laughable. Caring for a loved one is stressful.

The recommendation here isn’t that you stop caring for your loved one, but rather that you identify what is making you stressed about it. Some common stress triggers are:

  1. Your relationship with your loved one. If your relationship has been volatile in the past, caregiving in the present may be difficult.
  2. Your caregiving situation. Your loved one may be struggling with a difficult type of dementia and that may increase stress on you. Or perhaps you’ve seen your loved one rapidly decline in health.
  3. Your support network. You may feel you have no choice in caring for your loved one, or perhaps you may lack a support network that can encourage you.

Recognizing what triggers your stress is the first step in better caring for yourself, and by extension your loved one.

Self-care for family caregivers: Set goals for yourself

Now that you’ve identified the major stressors, try to work towards setting yourself some goals. These may be simple and shouldn’t necessarily reduce your stress. This is something that you’re working on for you.

For example: asking for help, reading a set number of books, doing more of something that you love, working towards an exercise-related goal, or simply working towards better health.

Set attainable goals, preferably in a field that you’re familiar with and enjoy. This will help you reach your goals and allow you to relieve stress at the same time.

Find solutions to your stressors

You’ve identified your stress and set yourself goals. Now, you need to work towards a solution with the identified stressors as part of the overall goal of self-care for family caregivers.

  1. Begin by identifying your problem. Perhaps your problem is that you’re overwhelmed with caregiving. Identifying it is the first step.
  2. Look for solutions. Try to find multiple solutions, list them, and pick one to try out. Maybe it will work. Or, maybe it won’t, and if it doesn’t try another of your solutions from your list.
  3. Seek help. If you’re struggling with your solutions or with coming up with a solution, ask a professional. Talking about mental health at work and after work is important to working through it.

Not every problem will have a solution that works for everything. But it is important and a helpful exercise to seek solutions and help.

Ask for help

You may need to ask for help from other family members, professional caregivers, or medical staff and that is encouraged. Self-care for family caregivers matters because it is a heavy burden for one person to bear alone.

Consider hiring a nurse or sending your loved one to a daycare for one or two days a week to give you an opportunity to work on other tasks or just have some downtime. Talk bluntly with doctors and with doctor’s staff at appointments so they understand where you’re coming from as a caregiver of a loved one with special needs.

If you have concerns about your loved one’s daily health, mention them. It may be helpful if you write down concerns ahead of time so you aren’t forced to remember them on the spot.

Lastly, be assertive. This point applies whether it’s to other family members or professionals.

Since you’re the primary caregiver, your voice matters, and what you see and feel concerned about is important. Ensure others take you seriously but using strong language that communicates your knowledge and concerns.

Conclusions on self-care for family caregivers

Every caregiving experience is different and there is no one size fits all that works for everyone. Following the steps listed here will hopefully give you the ability to better care for yourself so you can best care for your loved one.

About today’s writer

Holly Clark is a freelance health writer and a career carer. Her writing mainly focuses on elder care and well-being. Right now, she is currently working as a consultant for SureSafe.

This post is also available in: French

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