As the American population ages, caregiving is one of the nations’ fastest growing industries. It is performed by professionals and relatives and friends alike. Acknowledging this work can help provide caretakers with much-needed support.
Caretaking is very rewarding. Being there when a loved one needs you is something we all value and wish to provide. That said, it is natural to feel irritable, overwhelmed, fatigued, lonely, or even depressed. Stress and even its physical side effects are very common, even expected, among caretakers. Here are three tips to help you cope with caretaking stress, for your own sake and that of your loved ones.
1. Recognize the Signs of Caretaking Stress
As a caretaker, it can be easy to forget about your own needs. It is natural to be more focused on your loved one. Pay attention if you feel frustrated or constantly worried. Watch your overall energy levels and if you have any mood fluctuations. New variations in appetite, disinterest in things you used to enjoy, and frequent headaches can be useful indications that you need to take some time to care for yourself.
2. Set Realistic Goals & Firm Boundaries
You need to accept help. You can make a list of ways that your friends and family and community can assist you. Then, you can offer choices to others as to what they would like to do. People often respond well to being handed concrete tasks. Perhaps a friend can grocery shop, a family member can do house cleaning, your local senior center can deliver Meals on Wheels a few days a week, or another friend can take your loved one on walks or trips a few days a week.
Realistic goals are very important. You can break larger tasks into smaller steps that can be done one at a time. Lists, particularly checklists, are your friend, as are daily schedules, planners, and calendars. If a task seems too large, such as a home renovation or a holiday meal, give yourself the freedom to say no.
Look at what you can provide. You may have restrictions you cannot get around in your life or schedule, and try to avoid guilt. No one is perfect, and you cannot expect that of yourself. You are doing the best you can. If you need time away or outside assistance, that is not a failing on your part.
3. Be Flexible
While most of us wish our loved ones could stay in their homes cared for by only us for the remainder of their lives, this is not always realistic. Bringing in a paid caretaker, looking into adult daycare centers, or hiring a night nurse are all very reasonable options that any caretaker should consider if circumstances warrant it. Some individuals will also require residential supervision and medical attention that their families cannot provide. If this happens, it is not because you failed or that you didn’t care. You will also still have caretaking tasks even if your loved one does not live with you, so be sure to watch for burnout and seek assistance if needed.
Gallagher Home Care is a Medicare-certified home health agency that serves across 8 Pennsylvania counties. Our dedicated employees are trained to provide exceptional, compassionate care to seniors in a variety of circumstances, including those living with dementia. We provide house-keeping, home safety monitoring, and companion care, and even provide free in-home evaluations for new families. Request an appointment online or call (412) 453-8082 to learn more.