As a family caregiver, what are you doing to to protect your own health and peace of mind?
If you’re looking after an older adult, this is an important question to ask yourself on a regular basis, especially when life starts to feel hectic or overwhelming.
Caregiving can be stressful and time-consuming. Though it is undoubtedly one of the greatest acts of love there is, it can also be a major drain on your time and resources. It’s easy to feel exhausted, stretched thin, or preoccupied with your loved one’s health and wellbeing. In fact, it’s quite common for caregivers to worry so much that they eventually suffer from burnout. Studies have shown that caregivers commonly suffer from stress; a large majority of caregivers say that they don’t get enough sleep or exercise, and many even say that they put their own health on the backburner.
As a caregiver, you deserve the chance to rest and recharge. Fortunately, there are many ways to protect your own happiness, health, and peace of mind, while also making sure that your loved ones are supported and cared for.
Ready to prioritize your own peace of mind? Here are five important things for family caregivers to consider at the start of a new year:
1.) Know the Signs of Potential Trouble
As a caregiver, remember that there’s a limit to what you can do alone. You’re not Superman, and there may come a time when the best thing you can do for your loved one — and yourself — is to reach out for help.
It’s important for family caregivers to be aware of some common “yellow flags,” which can indicate that it may be time to bring in additional support. Generally, there are two major areas to watch out for. Signs that it’s time for additional care and attention may come from your elderly loved one, or from yourself.
First, it’s vital to keep a close eye on your senior loved one’s health status and living conditions. It may be time to seek help, such as hiring a professional senior companion care service, if you notice some of these common warning signs:
- Your loved one is unable to keep up with daily activities, such as bathing, walking, cooking, and eating
- You notice dramatic changes in their appearance, such as weight loss, bruising, or poor grooming or hygiene
- Your loved one’s living environment has become messy, cluttered, or dangerous. You may notice piles of laundry, mail piling up, dust or grime on surfaces, an unkempt yard, and so on
- Your older adult relative has become withdrawn and socially isolated
- You notice mental and behavioral changes in your elderly loved one, such as frequent memory lapses and confusion, mood swings, poor speech, or angry and abusive behavior
Similarly, it’s important to take stock of your own personal circumstances and well-being, for the sake of your own peace of mind, and the quality of your loved one’s care.
Are you experiencing excessive strain, stress, fatigue, or symptoms of burnout? Be mindful of your feelings, and regularly make time to check in with yourself, asking questions such as:
- “Am I angry or irritable all the time?”
- “Am I losing sleep or suffering ill health?”
- “Have I lost interest in things I used to love?”
- “Am I making enough time for myself and my family?”
- “Do I frequently feel mentally or physically exhausted?”
- “Have I started turning to coping mechanisms, such as increased drinking or poor diet, to get through the day?”
All of these are signs that it may be time to seek additional help, in order to give you back your health, comfort, and safety.
With that in mind, as a family caregiver, it’s important to always take steps to…
2.) Protect Your Own Health
As a loving caregiver, it’s easy for you to devote all of your time and attention to those you’re supporting — while accidentally overlooking your own health along the way. Don’t let your own health or quality of life suffer because you’re putting all your attention on others! Instead, be sure to regularly check in on yourself. Gauge how you’re feeling, and take concrete, daily steps to stay healthy, such as:
- Drink plenty of water.
- Get a healthy amount of rest each night.
- Make time to exercise and stay active.
- Keep up to date with any medications you may be taking.
- Talk to someone if you need help, such as a therapist or a support group.
- Keep up with your personal doctor’s visits and appointments.
In addition to safeguarding your physical and mental health and wellbeing, it’s important to make some time to…
3.) Give Yourself a Break
As a caregiver, it’s easy to feel like the weight of the world is on your shoulders at all times. This is particularly true if you’re a member of the Sandwich Generation, looking out for older loved ones and younger kids at the same time.
It’s natural to want to fill up your schedule and devote as much of your time as humanly possible to your loved ones. But it’s also important to establish boundaries and make sure that you give yourself the opportunity to experience all of the other wonderful and important things in life, like enjoying nature, advancing in your career, or even taking some time to rest and do nothing at all.
As you build our your calendar each month, make sure that you give yourself time for things that have nothing to do with caregiving, so you can rest, recharge, and refocus. That may mean:
- Finding time to meditate every day
- Enrolling in a new class
- Volunteering in the community
- Spending time with your kids
- Getting a work project done
- Traveling or taking a vacation
- Pursuing a new artistic project
- Taking up a new hobby or joining a sports team
- Hiking, biking, birding, or otherwise getting out into nature
We could list dozens of additional examples, and you’re probably thinking of a few yourself. The most important thing is that you go out and do them!
Remember, it’s not selfish at all to put yourself first every now and then. In fact, it’s essential to your health and peace of mind. Taking some time off may even come back to benefit your loved one! You may return to caregiving with more focus and attention to spare, making your quality of care even better for your elderly family.
While you do get your much-needed break, there are respite care services, such as Companions for Seniors, that can help support your parent or loved one with personalized care and attention — so you can truly focus on enjoying your personal time.
Another big step may be to…
4.) Make Use of Technology
In today’s day and age, there are all sorts of ways that you can put technology to work to make things easier for yourself and your senior loved one, helping to keep them safe and secure while giving you back confidence, time, and peace of mind. Here are a few ideas that may prove useful throughout the year:
- Add cameras, sensors, or home security features to your older loved one’s home
- Equip your senior relative with an alert button, to instantly call 911 in the event of a fall or accident
- Make use of automated pill dispensers, digital calendars, and other mechanisms to help keep your loved one’s daily schedule on track
- Use a group chat or a virtual workstation to mass-communicate with siblings, caregivers, healthcare providers, and others about your loved one’s health needs
- Scan and store your loved one’s important paperwork and records for easy virtual access later on
5.) Know When to Ask for Help
Finally, remember that you don’t have to go it alone. One of the best ways to safeguard your loved one’s well-being, and your own peace of mind, is to bring in help when you need it.
Getting help can take many forms! Depending on your needs and preferences, it might mean bringing together your network of friends and family to help support your loved one. It might mean taking advantage of meal delivery and other handy services.
For many households across the country, non-medical home care is the answer. With an in-home companion, you can rest easy, knowing that your senior has a friendly face ready to step in and provide support when you can’t. With flexible hours and a variety of practical skills, a professional companion can assist your loved one in many different ways, including:
About Companions for Seniors
Are you ready to look for help caring for a senior loved one? Do you have a family member who might benefit from a professional in-home companion or caregiver? Is it time to bring in an extra set of hands, so you can refocus on your own health and well-being? Companions for Seniors is here and ready to listen.
At Companions for Seniors, our mission is to help seniors live independently and with dignity in the comfort of their own home by empowering them to lead an active and enriched lifestyle, connecting them with their community, and nurturing meaningful relationships.
Our companions are trained and bonded, and can help provide a variety of services designed to help your loved one remain in the comfort of their own home. We’re locally owned in the Chicago area, with clients in the city and suburbs. Caring for the elderly isn’t just a job — it’s our passion. Our caregivers stand apart thanks to their depth of experience, flexibility, and boundless compassion.
Have any more questions? Ready to get the conversation started? Don’t hesitate to get in touch using our handy online form, or give us a call at 866-910-9020 today.