There are approximately 43 million informal caregivers in the US, most of which care for aging-in-place friends or relatives aged 60+. If you are currently assisting an independent senior with one or more activities of daily living (ADLs), you realize how rewarding it can be. However, the constant physical and emotional demands of caregiving can take a toll on your health and wellbeing. As an informal caregiver here are several proven ways to take care of yourself so that your loved one receives the care they deserve.
Caregiver Stress Warning Signs
Even the most seasoned professional caregivers have bad days. Most unpaid family caregivers face daily challenges like exhaustion, worry, inadequate resources, and strained relationships.
The average informal caregiver is also at higher risk for developing a chronic illness or abusing alcohol, cigarettes, and drugs. Assisting someone with dementia or Alzheimer’s can ratchet up a caregiver’s stress level to the breaking point.
These are the classic warning signs of caregiver stress:
- Sleep deprivation
- Anxiety and depression
- Difficulty performing simple tasks
- Weight gain
- Postponing or not showing up for medical appointments
- Not exercising like they should
- Poor eating habits
- Lack of interest in activities once enjoyed
- Social isolation
Given enough time, pent-up stress can start affecting the once-positive relationship between the caregiver and care recipient.
Self-Care Tips for Informal Caregivers
As an informal caregiver, ensuring a higher quality of life for the both of you is possible by taking these self-care steps:
Set realistic goals
Realistically, no matter how hard you try your loved one’s condition is probably going to get worse. Rather than allowing yourself to get overwhelmed, prioritize your daily tasks and focus on the most important ones- like getting dad to his physical therapy appointment. You’re only human after all, and even Superman has limitations.
Take care of yourself
If you’re sick in bed (again) because you’re not taking care of yourself, start making some positive lifestyle changes. Eat a healthy, nutrient-rich diet, exercise regularly and avoid bad habits like smoking or abusing alcohol. Get a complete physical once a year and be sure to show up for your other medical appointments.
Schedule time for yourself
A great way to stay refreshed is by setting aside quality time for yourself at least once a week. Also be sure to get seven to eight hours of sleep every day, learn a new hobby, or spend a few hours just lounging on the couch curled up with a good book. Whatever you do, don’t feel guilty for taking a break from your caregiving responsibilities.
Find healthy ways to decompress
Release pent-up stress by engaging in healthy activities like walking, yoga, swimming, or bicycling three to five times a week. Pamper yourself with a monthly spa day or weekend escape and seek professional counseling if negative feelings like anxiety and depression persist.
Start a caregiving journal
Another proven way to decompress is by keeping a daily caregiving journal. Use it to record both positive and negative experiences that you are going through- like the fact you were able to get mom to eat everything on her plate today. When you’re having a bad day go back and revisit the good moments while focusing on how your efforts are making a difference.
Call for backup
As difficult as it may be, asking for outside assistance doesn’t make you a bad person. Find relief through sources like community volunteers, family members, friends, or a meal delivery or senior transportation service. Another option you have is hiring a professional respite caregiver from a licensed home care agency.
Award-Winning Respite Care for Seniors in Orange County
Although serving as an informal caregiver is highly rewarding, it can also be overwhelming at times. When you need to take a well-deserved break contact the reliable respite caregivers from Colonial Home Care Services. As a local, Orange County-based, family-owned, and operated senior care agency, your loved one’s safety and wellbeing are our primary concern. All our professionals are carefully selected and thoroughly screened to ensure they have the skills, knowledge, experience, and personality to be exceptional caregivers.
As a client-trusted home care provider serving Orange County, Long Beach, Mission Viejo, and surrounding communities, CHCS has been providing peace of mind to those we serve for over 25 years. To learn more about our award-winning home care services now, or to schedule a FREE in-home assessment for a senior in our service area today, please visit Colonial Home Care Services at www.colonialhomecareservices.com.