One of the many struggles of becoming a caregiver for an aging relative is balancing the need of taking care of you while managing the responsibility of caring for someone else. The reality of elder care is that most family caregivers are middle aged women that have been given the overwhelming responsibility of caring for someone who can no longer live independently. It is comparable to responsibilities and commitment of caring for a young child.
Your family member’s needs may be simple like providing daily meals and transportation to complex such as managing incontinence, memory loss issues, medications, and assisting with bathing. With all these responsibilities caregivers often neglect themselves. The time needed to tend to someone else’s activities of daily living complicate your life and significantly impact the time available to pursue your own needs. As a result of how much time is diverted away from your spouse, your own children and friends you may feel guilty for taking time out for you.
The constant emotional and physical strain that these additional responsibilities place on you can lead to serious health problems! It is important to keep in perspective that when you push too hard and neglect taking care of you; you will eventually burn out and have anything left to give. You should take steps to reduce stress as much as you can. The following are suggestions to help you minimize some of the stress you’re feeling.
- Schedule respite time into your routine. Take 30 minutes a day to exercise, read a book or take a coffee break with a friend. Do something special every week like participating in a sport or yoga class or refocusing on an abandoned hobby.
- Ask for and accept help. Don’t fool yourself into believing are the only one who can help your loved one. Someone else in your family can take over the role of grocery shopping or prepare meals in advance by simply increasing their mealtime portions.
- If you need financial help taking care of a relative, don’t be afraid to ask family members to contribute their fair share to help pay for professional homecare or respite care services.
- Keep the small stuff in perspective. Concerns that may create anxiety such as vacuuming, cleaning out the hoarded magazines and papers, getting the dog groomed can wait. Most likely it distresses you more than your loved one.
- Join a support group for caregivers in your situation. There are many groups for Alzheimer’s, Dementia, Parkinson’s, Cancer, and Caregivers. Checkout health organization websites and your area senior center for local support groups.
- Stay in touch with family and friends. Socialization is essential for good mental health. Isolation may lead to depression.
- Don’t neglect your own health! See your physician for a checkup. Make him aware of any physical and emotional symptoms you may be experiencing.
Try to keep your sense of humor. What seems to be a frustrating situation is often comical. After all the little things that seem so irrational, like repeatedly knocking the windows to ward off those “darn” squirrels from the birdfeeder, will eventually be treasured memories.