Emotional and physical demands on caregivers can be very overwhelming. Whether you’re caring for a spouse, an aging parent, or a loved one, the stress of managing everything on your own is harder than most people realize. Often, the best advice on improving your caregiver game comes from other caregivers who have been there, done that.
Here is a checklist of six top tips culled from various online caregiver sources on how to ease the burden and relieve the stress of daily routines.
A Checklist for Fellow Caregivers
Make mealtime more fun.
It’s vital to be sure your senior loved one is eating well and getting their proper nourishment, but it’s also great to make it fun for you and for them. A few ideas and things to remember:
- The taste of food can be altered by medications, dentures, or illness, so take time to prepare food your loved one truly enjoys.
- Listen to music during dinner to lighten the mood and have a little fun. Reminisce about old times and favorite singers.
- Read a book to your loved one as a special daily routine; one chapter every day at lunchtime will give you both something to look forward to and discuss.
- Reminder: Preparing smaller, frequent meals is a healthier approach to eating larger, infrequent ones. Keep to a routine and try to serve meals at the same time each day.
Get more social.
If you’re new to caregiving and feeling overwhelmed, we’ve got news for you: you’re not alone. Seek out caregiver support groups on Facebook in your local area to share your experiences and meet others either virtually — or in person for coffee — who are going through the same things you are. You can also look to join Facebook groups for caregivers of loved ones who share the same medical or health issues your loved one is experiencing (i.e. cancer, diabetes, dementia). It’s incredibly healing to talk with others who are on the same journey as you, and you might learn new information from their experiences that will help you to become a better caregiver to your loved one.
Invite guests over.
Can’t go out? Invite friends over to your home. Don’t worry about what the house looks like, what you or your loved one looks like — or whether you have any food to offer. Invite friends over whose company you enjoy. Ask them to bring over some take-out and just have a quality visit with you and your loved one. It’s important to break up your week with in-person interactions, supportive conversations, and a little bit of entertainment to make you both smile.
Ask for help.
Everyone needs a break sometimes. It’s not uncommon for caregivers to try to take everything on themselves, but asking for help from family members, neighbors, or other local resources is crucial. Find a way to give yourself a break, get out of the house, or go on a mini-getaway. Time for yourself can make you a happier, more patient caregiver.
Take a virtual class.
This suggestion goes for both you and the loved one in your care. Search online for slow flow yoga classes or chair exercise workouts to get your hearts pumping. Inquire with your local senior center to see if they offer virtual classes; you can also check out AARP’s Virtual Community Center to find free virtual wellness, exercise, dance, and movement classes designed for seniors and others with physical limitations. Exercise and movement is a great way to strengthen muscles, improve balance, and elevate your mood.
Practice self-care every day.
Caregiver stress syndrome is real — and known to affect thousands of caregivers every day. As the caregiver neglects their own needs, their mood, physical health, and mental health decline, making it that much harder to bounce back. Left unaddressed, it can result in a more chronic or serious form of depression and a continuing decline in mental and physical health.
To avoid caregiver stress syndrome, you need to practice self-care on the daily. Understand that there will always be something else that needs doing, but sometimes it’s important to just leave the laundry and dishes, and don’t do anything but take a nap, read a magazine, or call an old friend who knows how to make you laugh. That connection with things and people that make you happy and relaxed will go a long way toward making you a better caregiver to your loved one.