When it comes to caregiving for an older adult in your life, there’s a truth that comes with it that is obvious, but can still be difficult for many people to admit to either themselves or others: caregiving can be really, really hard.
Yes, it can also be fulfilling and strengthen your bond with that person. But it can also require a significant investment from your own life. Quite often caregivers have a job, kids they have to raise and their own responsibilities in life.
Now add in the care needed for that older adult, the appointments and unscheduled emergencies that arise, and it can be a second job in itself.
There are times when it’s overwhelming and people need to consider how to best move forward.
Before it gets to that point though, it’s important for caregivers to build in time for self-care. And while “self-care” has become a trendy term in its own right, it’s vital that caregivers not lose sight of themselves and what matters to them. Here are a few tips to help in that regard.
Take Time to Move
Physical health has a direct impact on mental health, and keeping active is vital for caregivers. If you’re fortunate enough to be able to get in an hour for a run or a workout, terrific.
But even if it’s just ducking out for a quick walk around the block, a 15-minute yoga session or even a living room dance party, all of it can make a difference.
Related to keeping active are nutrition and sleep. It’s easy to decide to do quick takeout instead of eating a more nutritious meal, but doing so often will have a negative impact on your energy level and health. That said, the occasional glass of wine at the end of a long day can sometimes be exactly what you need.
And as much as possible, try to keep a regular sleep schedule. Going to bed and getting up at the same times every day keeps your body in rhythm and helps provide the energy you need each day.
Join a Caregivers Support Group
As much as you can try to lean on friends or family for support, if they aren’t a primary caregiver in the way you are, despite their best efforts they can’t fully understand how you’re feeling and what you need.
For many caregivers, joining a support group provides them with a network of people who can empathize with their struggles and help them find a sense of community through the process. The AARP has a hub on its website for people looking to find a support group that is right for them.
You get days off from your regular job, but with caregiving at home there’s no such luxury until you specifically ask for help. If you have siblings or other relatives who can help you, ask them to do so. Whether it’s for an afternoon to let you get in a workout, go to a movie or find a quiet place to read a good book, or for a weekend so you can get away and clear your head, it’s vital to lean on those around you for support.
Give Yourself Grace
At the end of the day, you’re doing your best. There are days when everything runs like clockwork. But there are many days that don’t, and when things get difficult, often caregivers will feel a sense of guilt that they might not be doing enough, even if they’re stretched thin already.
At Prestige, we work closely with Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia expert David Troxel, who said in a recent interview with us that “sometimes the best caregivers are the ones have the most guilt”.
If your heart is in the right place, you’re on the right path.
How Prestige Can Help
Many Prestige communities offer respite stays so that caregivers can take a break. Contact the community nearest you to find out if they have availability.