Millions of Americans each year donate their time and talents to care for elderly and disabled loved ones. Known as “informal caregivers,” these selfless individuals must make numerous sacrifices to ensure their loved ones get the nurturing they deserve. And although caregiving is a labor of love, it can take a major physical, mental, and emotional toll on the one providing the care. If this sounds familiar, these Caregiver stress management tips are the perfect way to keep caregiver burnout from sidelining you.
Warning Signs of Caregiver Burnout
Regardless of their training and experience, most caregivers eventually reach a point when they feel overworked, overtired, and overstressed. Exhaustion, worry, inadequate resources, and strained relationships can be a caregiver’s constant companions.
The average caregiver is more likely to develop a chronic health condition, like elevated blood pressure, heart disease, or diabetes, than a non-caregiver. Assisting a loved one with dementia or Alzheimer’s can be overwhelming for even the most seasoned caregiving veterans.
Caregiver stress and burnout typically present with these warning signs:
- Sleep deprivation
- Anxiety and depression
- Difficulty performing simple tasks
- Rapid weight gain or weight loss
- Postponing or completely ignoring medical appointments
- Substance abuse
- Not exercising
- Poor eating habits
- Lack of interest in activities once enjoyed
- Social isolation
Ignoring these symptoms won’t make them go away. If allowed to persist, caregiver burnout will eventually sideline you while placing your care recipient at risk.
Self-Care Tips for Informal Caregivers
Here’s how to stay healthy and refreshed while caring for family and friends:
Prioritize caregiving duties
Although it’s not easy to accept, no matter how hard you try your loved one’s condition will eventually get worse. Rather than allowing yourself to get overwhelmed, prioritize your daily tasks and focus on the most important ones — like getting Dad out of the house to exercise.
After all, you’re only human, and even Superman takes an occasional break!
Avoid unhealthy habits
If you’re sick in bed (again) because you’re not taking care of yourself, start making some positive lifestyle changes. Eat a well-balanced diet, exercise regularly, and avoid unhealthy habits like smoking cigarettes or drinking alcohol to excess. Get a complete annual physical, and don’t ignore your other medical appointments.
Set aside some “me” time
Make time to participate in healthy stress-relieving activities like walking, swimming, cycling, or Yoga three to five times per week. Treat yourself at least once a month to a spa day or lunch with close friends. Seek professional counseling if negative feelings like anxiety, depression, and hopelessness persist.
Start a caregiving journal
Another way to decompress is by keeping a daily caregiving journal. Journaling can be used to record positive and negative experiences you are going through — like the fact you were able to get Mom to eat everything on her dinner plate. When you’re having a bad day, go back and relive the good moments and focus on how your efforts are paying off.
Be sure to reward yourself
Not everyone has what it takes to be a successful caregiver. Reward yourself for a job well done by doing something you enjoy every week. Use your downtime to learn a new hobby, go shoe shopping, or just spend a few hours curled up on the couch binge-watching your favorite movies. Whatever you decide to do, don’t feel guilty for taking a break from your caregiving duties.
Don’t go it alone
Asking for help doesn’t make you a failure. Stay refreshed by seeking relief through community volunteers, family members, friends, or a meal delivery or paratransit service. Another option you have is hiring a professional respite caregiver from a reputable home care provider.
Flexible In-Home Respite Care for Families in Southwest Florida
Although it’s highly gratifying, caring for an aging or disabled loved one can be physically and emotionally exhausting. When you need to take a well-deserved break, contact the caring respite care professionals at Home Instead. Conveniently available in Naples, Fort Myers, and Charlotte Country, FL, our senior care services help to enhance the aging experience by providing practical support at home delivered with a human touch.
Our reliable in-home solutions help aging adults stay engaged in everyday life with tailor-made support to stay safe and well at home. At Home Instead, it is always our mission to provide a care plan personalized to your family’s needs – bringing you all comfort, companionship, and peace of mind. To learn more or schedule a time to talk with one of our home care specialists, please visit us at www.homeinsteadswfl.com.