Many people find deep meaning in caring for an elderly family member, but it can be a demanding role to fill. The reality is that most caregivers, especially women, have a full slate of other responsibilities to juggle alongside caregiving.
The challenge can get even harder with all the extra demands of the holiday season—as shopping, decorating, cooking, entertaining, church and social events—are added into an already stressful schedule.
As we near the end of the year, it is a good time to recognize the important work that family caregivers provide. If you’re a caregiver, it’s also a time to recognize how important it is to take care of yourself, too.
Be Aware Of Burnout
It’s not uncommon for caregivers to put their own needs second to those of their loved one. While this behavior may be motivated by selflessness, over time it can lead to negative consequences, including caregiver burnout.
Common warning signs include:
- Withdrawing from other family and friends
- Losing interest in activities you once enjoyed
- Feeling irritable, hopeless, or depressed
- Changes in your weight or sleep patterns
- Getting sick more frequently
- Turning to destructive coping habits (drugs or alcohol)
- Feeling exhausted, overwhelmed, or resentful
Regularly taking an honest self-assessment can give you the motivation to ensure you’re getting the self-care you need. And the good news is, there are many things you can do to help keep burnout at bay.
Take Care Of Your Body
In order to be an effective caregiver for someone else, you need to be healthy yourself. That’s why it’s important to make your own good health a focus. Strive to stay physically well by eating right, getting enough sleep each night, and making time for regular exercise.
And remember: just as you wouldn’t neglect taking your loved one to see a doctor, get necessary medical tests and treatments, or receive regular dental care, your own health needs deserve the same high priority.
Don’t Judge Your Feelings
There’s no “right” or “wrong” way to feel when you’re a caregiver; your emotions can run from love and devotion to frustration and anger. Having negative thoughts or feelings doesn’t make you a bad child/sibling, a bad caregiver, or a bad human being.
Accept and acknowledge your feelings, whatever they are. Understand that the intensity of your emotions, and their timing, is not something you can control. Be patient and loving with yourself, your loved one, and with other family members.
As much as you’re able, focus on positive thoughts and look for the good in every situation. Humor can also be a great antidote to stress, so find ways to add moments of fun and laughter to your day.
Make Time For Yourself
Does the idea of taking time off from caregiving make you feel guilty or selfish? Then think of it this way: Just as taking a vacation from work helps you come back refreshed, renewed, and better able to do the job, so does taking a break from your caregiving responsibilities.
Even if it’s just an hour or two, regular breaks can make a significant difference in your well-being. So when friends or family members offer to fill in for you, say yes. (And if they don’t offer, don’t be afraid to ask!) Even if you don’t actually leave the house, having someone else there watching over your loved one gives you time to get away to another room for a nap, a cup of tea or coffee, a phone call to a friend, or to relax with a favorite TV show or book.
If you don’t have friends or family nearby, consider using respite care services to get the break you need. Respite care can provide everything from a few hours of in-home care, all the way up to a short stay in an assisted living community. Hearthstone offers respite care, with a minimum stay of two weeks, in our cozy, home-like Hearthstone of Beaverton location.
Don’t Go It Alone
It’s easy to feel isolated when you’re the sole caregiver for a loved one, but you don’t have to do it alone. You can get help and support by joining a caregivers support group. Sharing your feelings, fears, and experiences with other people in the same situation can help you manage stress and find helpful resources for you and your loved one.
Consider whether an online or in-person group would be the best fit to help you stay connected. If you’re not sure where to start, the Aging and Disability Resource Connection of Oregon offers a number of caregiver resources (www.adrcoforegon.org). Your doctor’s office, hospital, care coordinator/social worker, counselor, or faith community may also have good suggestions.
Caregivers, Learn More About Our Senior Living Options
Placing your loved one in our locally owned and managed senior living communities in Beaverton can provide peace of mind for you as the caregiver.
At Hearthstone of Beaverton, our boutique-style community contains over 50 different Assisted Living apartments that range from private studios to one or two bedrooms. At Hearthstone at Murrayhill, we offer Independent, Assisted Living, and Memory Care options.
12520 SW Hart Road
Beaverton, OR 97008
10880 SW Davies Rd
Beaverton, OR 97008