Taking care of a loved one is both a rewarding and stressful job. It requires a specific skill that includes patience, long hours, and a genuine drive to help your loved one stay comfortable and healthy. However, one question that you might not be asked as often as it should: are you taking enough care of yourself?
For most caregivers, the health of their loved ones takes precedence above all else — including their own. If you find yourself constantly putting your needs on the back burner, then this guide is for you. We have listed four ways for you to incorporate self-care into your busy schedule.
Take a Break
We hear you — a break sounds like an impossible luxury for you as a caregiver. However, looking after an older relative or patient is easily one of the most stressful round-the-clock jobs out there. Breaks are not only encouraged, but they are essential to your mental and physical health too.
If the idea of taking breaks give you anxiety, you can start by stepping back a few minutes at a time. A quick stroll or taking a balanced snack elsewhere can do wonders for your health. If there’s somewhere you want to be, you can also take a couple of days off. Ask a trusted family member or friend to step into the role of caregiver and recharge your batteries with a quick getaway.
You probably don’t hear this enough, so we’re saying it: you deserve a break. Whether it’s rewarding yourself with half an hour away or taking a weekend vacation in your happy place, you have earned it.
Prioritize Getting Quality Sleep
Constantly fussing over your loved one and keeping one eye open through the night can take a toll on your health. If you find yourself constantly sleep-deprived, then you may be on the fast track to a burnout.
A full night’s rest can do wonders to your performance and to your wellbeing.
If you have a hard time winding down after a day of taking care of your loved one, it helps to build a solid nighttime routine. This may include breathing exercises, yoga poses or stretching and meditation.
Find a Good Support System
How many times have you brushed off a sincere expression of concern from a loved one? How many times have you answered with a noncommittal “I’m fine” when someone asks you how you are?
A lot of caregivers are very perceptive to the needs of others but are notoriously reluctant to ask for support from others. However, it’s time to break away from the anxiety of being a burden to others. Learn to ask for help and support from friends, family or even professionals. It may seem daunting at first to do so but learning to find support is a powerful way to exert your personal power. It is a way to nurture relationships outside of your role as a caregiver and can help ease your stress.
Set Up Boundaries
It’s easy to lose a sense of self when you’re caring for others full-time. When this happens, it becomes difficult to assert your basic needs, often leading to a slew of physical and mental difficulties.
Aim to always prioritize yourself and learn where to draw the line between your responsibilities and your needs.
It’s Okay to Seek Professional Help
Care needs and personal situations change over time and can necessitate the addition of part-time or full-time professional help. It is okay, and often beneficial, to seek this support for both yourself and your senior loved one. Home Care services can provide respite for caregivers and senior living communities can provide stable environments for seniors with higher care needs or those that desire a sense of community or access to amenities that may not be available in their current setting. If you’re looking for a place to get started with seeking professional services Medical Alert is here to help—we have teamed up with A Place for Mom who is the leading senior living advisory service in the United States. A Place for Mom’s expert advisors help caregivers and their families find the right senior living options for their aging loved ones through personalized referrals, tour scheduling and move-in support. Their services come at no cost to families as A Place for Mom is paid for by its network of 17,000+ participating communities and home care providers.