Caregiving and the Importance of Self-Care: Three Tips You Need to Know
When you assume the role as caregiver, you assume an enormous amount of responsibility. Caring for a loved one is a worthwhile cause. As you take on this noble duty, you should always be aware of your own personal needs. Here are a few tips to help you balance between caring for others — and yourself.
1. Stay Organised
When you get started as a caregiver, it’s easy to become overwhelmed. Not only do you have to tend to the immediate needs of your loved one, but you are also in charge of all the finances, medical records and legal documents of that person. Keeping up with all these documents are then compounded by additionally needing to manage your time between meeting your needs, and the needs of your loved one. With so much to keep up with, it’s easy to see why so many caregivers experience stress and anxiety.
The best way to curb your stress is to stay organized with your caregiving. Keep all of your loved one’s documents in one place, sorted by type and easily accessible whenever they may be needed. If you don’t already have one, purchase a planner. Mark out times for your visits and make special notes for different various appointments your loved one has coming up. Finally, make plans for various scenarios. Already know a secondary contact to check on your loved one, and keep their doctor’s number close by, in case you need to make an emergency call. Taking these precautionary steps will leave you more prepared and relaxed when you go about your caregiving duties.
2. Know Your Limits
Even after buying a planner and having a Plan B, or even C, you still can’t expect everything. Life is exceedingly good at throwing curveballs and sometimes we get a little bit more than what we can handle at one time. As a caregiver, it’s essential to understand that even though you have taken on the responsibility on your own, you don’t have to do it alone. When life gets in the way, you need to know that it’s OK to reach out to others for help. This help can come from other family members, friends, care staff, or transportation services.
By divvying out the responsibility as caregiver, you give yourself a little breathing room. Instead of rushing across town and cancelling other plans, you can simply reach out to someone else for help. This will reduce your own personal stress, as well as ensure that your loved one is given the immediate attention and thorough care that they need, as opposed to you running-in on short notice, late and with your blood pressure through the roof.
3. Treat Yourself
To many people, the idea of taking a personal day seems ludicrous, but anyone who spends their time caring for others knows the immense benefits of taking time for self-care. Being a caregiver can be a stressful job. There will be times that you have to give 100 percent of yourself for the person in your care, and once you realize just how exhausted you are, you’ll be searching for a way to blow off some steam.
Instead of turning to drugs or alcohol, the healthy alternative to letting loose is taking a personal day: time set aside for yourself to allow you to care for and treat yourself. These days are ideal for laying back and turning off the outside world, letting yourself fall into a good book, or even just stay in bed and sleep-in until noon. After spending time on yourself, you’ll feel relaxed, rejuvenated and ready to be at your best as a caregiver.
Committing yourself to care for another human being is difficult work. If you plan on being a caregiver, either professionally or for a loved one, you need to first know how to care for yourself. By taking the time to tend to your own needs, you’ll be better prepared to provide care for others.
Related: Postnatal care services.
Harry Cline is creator of NewCaregiver.org and author of the upcoming book, The A-Z Home Care Handbook: Health Management How-Tos for Senior Caregivers. As a retired nursing home administrator, father of three, and caregiver to his ninety-year-old uncle, Harry knows how challenging and rewarding caregiving can be. He also understands that caregiving is often overwhelming for those just starting out. He created his website and is writing his new book to offer new caregivers everywhere help and support.