Acting as a family caregiver for an elderly parent or loved one is one of the most rewarding and enriching things you can do. However, caregiving also comes with countless responsibilities that can make it harder to keep up with all of the other things in life that you’re passionate about — including work, hobbies, and, above all, family time.
We’ve heard many stories from busy family caregivers who spend so much time focusing on their senior loved ones that they feel as though they don’t have anything left to give to their other relationships. This can be particularly challenging for the millions of Sandwich Generation caregivers out there, who provide care to an aging loved one while also raising and supporting kids of their own.
It’s never easy to feel like you’re putting your friends and family on the backburner. Many caregivers already deal with feelings of stress and guilt, which can be made even tougher when you feel like you’re neglecting the people who matter most, including your spouse, your siblings, or your kids.
At the same time, it’s hard to burn the candle at both ends. After a long day providing hands-on care at your senior loved one’s house, it can be difficult to have enough energy left to laugh with a spouse, play with your kids, or take care of your own home.
Fortunately, there are some practical steps you can take to help balance caregiving and family time — and make sure that the many responsibilities that go into caring for a senior loved one don’t impact your relationships with all of the other important people in your life.
“Whether you are brand new to caregiving, you sense it is quickly approaching on the horizon or you’ve been in the trenches for months now, it’s never too late to reevaluate your priorities, make some changes to achieve a better balance in your life and repair relationships with the people you love.”
Ready to make caregiving a healthier and more fulfilling part of your day? Here are a few ideas for balancing the important demands of family time with caregiving:
Set Healthy, Productive Boundaries
We’ve written before about the importance of developing and maintaining healthy boundaries as a family caregiver. While it can feel daunting, setting boundaries means creating limits and guidelines that will ultimately allow you to foster a better connection with your senior loved one — ensuring that their needs are met while you also get the space and time you need to feel your very best.
For caregivers, a key part of setting boundaries involves recognizing your limits and being realistic about how much you can accomplish in a day — and learning when and how to say no, as necessary. Without setting these boundaries, it’s easy to get swept up in caregiving to the point where you don’t have anything left to give to your family or friends.
However, the more you can set manageable boundaries (and the more comfortable you feel with actually sticking to them) the better equipped you’ll be to live a full and well-rounded life, with enough energy to give to both senior care and family time.
Keep Lines of Communication Open
As a caregiver, it’s easy to start to feel overwhelmed, especially when you feel like you’re shouldering all of the responsibility of caregiving by yourself.
Delegating responsibilities wherever you can — whether to a sibling, a neighbor, or a senior care expert in your area — is often an important part of setting boundaries and building family time into your schedule. In other cases, it may help to have someone share some of the emotional burdens of caregiving , providing an open ear when you need to vent or talk about your worries.
Family caregivers will ultimately benefit by keeping the lines of communication in their life open. While it can be tempting to put all of your focus on caregiving and shut out others, try to be proactive about keeping them involved and informed. This can be a great way to minimize resentment and family arguments, and can help everyone feel like they’re working toward a shared goal, together.
Fortunately, there are all sorts of ways to foster a dialogue and make communication easier, without adding even more challenges to your plate. This could be as simple as keeping a running virtual calendar with your loved ones, keeping them notified of any changes to the senior’s schedule and allowing them to pitch in where they can. You can also use chat services to stay in touch when you’re on the go, or use video conferencing to stay connected with your long-distance loved ones. Taking a few extra opportunities to connect and share, even for a moment or two a day, can make a world of difference.
Try to Be Fully Present
As Maria Baratta Ph.D., L.C.S.W, writes for Psychology Today, “utilizing the tool of compartmentalizing can help establish a break from work.” That includes the work involved in caregiving.
There are many different strategies and tools you can use to compartmentalize different aspects of your life, but one of the most important steps is to be fully present. When you’re in caregiving mode, you’re in caregiving mode; when you’re home, you’re home.
As Baratta writes:
“The minute you walk into your home, you remind yourself and give yourself permission to stop thinking about work and begin being present and mindful that you are home. And when your mind wanders back to work, you remind yourself that you can think about work tomorrow and not today anymore. If that is impossible, remind yourself that not setting boundaries and limits to how much you work compromises your mental and physical health.”
A simple step you can take may be to put down your phone if it’s constantly pulling your focus, or to spend quality time with your family on activities that allow you to totally unplug from caregiving for a few minutes — like working on a puzzle, going on a nature walk, or baking up something tasty in the kitchen.
Don’t Be Afraid to Reach Out for Help
It can be hard and even scary to ask for help, even when the challenges of caregiving are holding you back from the things you love — including family time with the people who matter most.
As caregivers, so many of us want to be perfect, infallible superheroes who can juggle everything without breaking a sweat. Unfortunately, this just isn’t realistic. Everyone needs a helping hand every now and then, and there shouldn’t be any shame or guilt involved in reaching out when you need to. Asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness. In fact, it’s just the opposite. Getting help is an act of strength and courage, and one that will ultimately make a world of difference for your health and well-being, while giving you the space and time you need to be a better partner, parent, or caregiver.
There are lots of resources out there that can help make life easier as a family caregiver, giving you an important chance to step back, breathe, and refocus on your goals. This includes caregiving support groups, as well as local services that can streamline many aspects of a senior’s day-to-day life — including meal delivery services, cleaning services, and senior community centers.
Above all, look into home care services in your area. Also known as companion care, in-home care, or respite care, this type of service is all about giving your elderly loved one the hands-on support they need to live independently in the comfort and safety of home while giving family caregivers some well-deserved respite.
With home care, a senior companion provides the personalized assistance and care your senior loved one needs, on a flexible schedule that suits their lifestyle and your own preferences, as a family caregiver.
Depending on your loved one’s needs, a senior companion can help with a variety of services designed to help them age in place comfortably, safely, and independently, including:
- Assisting with activities of daily living (ADLs), such as sitting, standing, or walking from room to room
- Providing transportation to social gatherings, doctor’s appointments, and more
- Helping with housekeeping and laundry services
- Assisting with food shopping and meal preparation
- Offering medication and exercise reminders
- Spending social time together — playing games, going on walks, and sharing conversation
Home care is flexible and affordable, and can easily be fit into your current care plan. It’s hard to overstate the benefits of bringing in an experienced, empathetic, and knowledgeable care expert. As Dr. Keith Washington writes for AgingCare:
“Regardless of your situation, you must seek out as much help as possible. Do not try to endure the challenge alone. Let friends and family know that you need assistance… Research all kinds of outside help until you find an appropriate solution you can afford. Even a few hours of respite each week are well worth the effort.”
Companions for Seniors: Your Chicagoland Home Care Resource
If you have any further questions about making the most of your time as a family caregiver, or want to learn more about the incredible advantages of in-home care for seniors, don’t hesitate to get in touch to keep the discussion going! We’re here and happy to help, in any way we can.
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.
While helping seniors maintain a higher quality of life, we also hope to provide greater peace of mind for family caregivers who may need some support of their own — including everyone who needs a little bit of flexibility and space to enjoy family time with their loved ones.
We are locally owned in Chicago, with clients in the city and suburbs. All of our companions are trained and bonded, and can assist your loved one in many different ways, including providing assistance with activities of daily living, meal preparation, housekeeping, transportation services, and more.
From one hour to 24 hours a day, we can be there for you and your loved one. We understand that every situation is unique, so we provide a personalized care plan that’s modified to meet each client’s specific needs. As a client’s situation changes, so does our plan of care.
Want to make more time for family and friends? Ready to help your senior loved one enjoy the benefits of home care? To get started, fill out our convenient online form or give us a call at 866-910-9020 today.