Research indicates that the stressors involved in caring for an ill loved one put you at a greater risk for depression. Caring for a loved one suffering from long-term illness or dementia can be challenging, lonely, and even traumatic.
November is National Family Caregiver’s Month – a great time to assess the mental and physical well-being of yourself or another caregiver in your life.
Here are a few tips for family caregivers, who need to remember to care for themselves, too!
Don’t be afraid to seek counseling. Appointments with counseling professionals can help caregivers resolve and work through a range of issues. Caregiving for a loved one is often challenging, and counseling can help you develop skills for coping with difficult emotions. You can also learn to identify and appreciate your strengths.
Set personal limits for your caregiving. It’s important to clarify what you will and won’t tolerate so you can maintain healthy boundaries with your caregiving. It can be tough to find a balance between your own life and well-being and that of someone you care for.
Develop healthy coping strategies. Instead of engaging in unhealthy stress outlets (like overeating, drinking alcohol, or shutting down socially), try rewarding your hard work with healthy activities. Making time to exercise, visit with friends, attend social club meetings, or cook healthy meals, can help you cope with the stress of caring for a loved one. If you feel yourself start to panic or lose balance, try connecting with a local caregiving support group.
Remember that you aren’t alone. One key to caregiving success, is realizing when you need to seek additional help. If the burden of caring for a loved one is too much for you to take on alone, perhaps it’s time to bring in outside assistance. An in-home care agency can assist you with many of your loved one’s care needs. You can oversee the type of care your loved one is receiving, yet maintain a healthy lifestyle for yourself.
Additional recommendations for anyone in a non-professional caregiving role:
- Take care of your own health so that you can be strong enough to take care of your loved one.
- Accept offers of help and suggest specific things people can do to help you.
- Learn how to communicate effectively with doctors.
- Caregiving is hard work so take respite breaks.
- Watch out for signs of depression and don't delay getting professional help when you need it.
- Be open to new technologies that can help you care for your loved one.
- Organize medical information so it's up to date and easy to find.
- Make sure legal documents are in order.
- Seek support and advice from other caregivers.
- Give yourself credit for doing the best you can in one of the toughest jobs there is!