Each year, millions of Americans volunteer to care for family members and friends aged 65+. The average family caregiver is asked to juggle a household and at least a part-time job along with their caregiving duties. As the daily pressure begins to mount, many informal caregivers develop a condition known as caregiver stress. If not properly addressed, that pent-up stress can affect the quality of life of both the caregiver and care recipient. If you currently find yourself in this situation, here’s how to prioritize self-care while serving as a family caregiver.
How Caregiving Affects Caregivers
Although caring for an aging loved one is highly rewarding, most family caregivers face these daily challenges:
- Neglecting their own health
- Financial difficulties due to out-of-pocket expenditures
- Strained personal relationships
- Stress and fatigue
- Substance abuse
- Scheduling conflicts (work, children’s activities, etc.)
Along with physical and mental exhaustion, a caregiver might also deal with negative emotions like guilt, frustration, anxiety, hopelessness, and depression. As daily stressors start to add up it can push even the most “battle-tested” family caregiver to the breaking point.
Caregiver Stress Warning Signs
In addition to mental health concerns like substance abuse, negative feelings, and social isolation, these are some of the physical warning signs of caregiver stress:
- A weakened immune system
- Rapid weight gain or loss
- Digestive problems
- Frequent headaches
Once caregiver stress takes hold it has the potential to morph into caregiver fatigue and even full-blown burnout.
Self-Care Tips for Stressed Caregivers
As someone who’s “burning the candle at both ends,” these are some healthy ways to decompress:
Stay physically fit
Regular exercise benefits you in so many ways, including the fact it’s a great stress reliever. Working out for at least 20 minutes several times a week will also promote a better night’s sleep, strengthen your immune system, and give you a more positive mental outlook. Some of the best cardio workouts for caregivers include walking, swimming, bicycling, or aerobics. Meditative forms of exercise like Yoga and Tai Chi are great for refreshing both body and mind.
Join a support group
Joining a caregiver support group is a simple way to connect with like-minded individuals who understand what you’re going through. As a reliable source of caregiving tips, support groups provide a forum where you can openly express your feelings and experiences without being judged.
Speak to a professional
Another way to share your innermost thoughts without being criticized is by speaking with a licensed therapist. Not only will your counselor be objective and a good listener, but he or she can also provide you with valuable insight that helps restore your peace of mind and sense of self-worth.
Record your experiences
You can also confront negative feelings by recording them in a caregiving journal. Once you start a journal, use it as an opportunity to write down inspirational messages or positive thoughts too- like successfully convincing your stubborn father to stop driving. Whenever you are having a bad day, going back and reading those uplifting messages can do wonders for your self-confidence and mental outlook.
Enjoy some “me” time
When caring for others, “me” time and personal relationships often get neglected. Reward yourself for a job well done by doing activities you enjoy. Pamper yourself with a spa day, take a vacation with friends, or learn a new hobby. You can even spend a quiet afternoon curled up on the couch with a good book. After all, you deserve it!
Take a respite
When it’s time to take a well-deserved break, or “respite,” you can seek caregiver relief through:
- Other family members
- Friends, neighbors, or coworkers
- Adult daycare
- A professional respite caregiver from a licensed home care agency
Quality In-Home Respite Care You Can Trust
Although caring for an aging-in-place senior is highly rewarding, it can also be challenging and stressful. As a result, taking time for self-care as a family caregiver can seem impossible.
To help, when you need to take a well-deserved break, contact Assisting Hands Home Care. While proudly serving seniors and families in communities Northwest of Boston, Assisting Hands provides professional in-home health services that allow our clients to remain safely and comfortably in their own homes.
From a few hours a day to around the clock, our client-centered services include respite care, personal care, hospice care, Alzheimer’s and dementia care, Parkinson’s support, and Veteran’s support. At Assisting Hands, we deliver quality home care you can trust! To learn more now about our dependable caregivers, or to schedule a consultation for a senior in our service area, please visit us at Assisting Hands – Boston Northwest.