If you are caring for an elderly parent or an ill or disabled family member, or if you work as a professional caregiver, you know the joys and challenges of this very important role. On the one hand, your decision to be their caregiver is an act of love that can be profoundly meaningful.
“Caregiving often calls us to lean into love we didn’t know possible.” – Tia Walker
You might see it as an opportunity to pay back the love and sacrifices your parents made for you. It also can be an opportunity to spend quality time with your parent. Many caregivers say that the experience strengthened their relationships with loved ones.
On the other hand, caregiving without proper self-care and relief can affect your own psychological and physical health – especially if you are caregiving in addition to working full-time or caring for children or other family members.
Tips and Resources on Self-care and Relief for Caregivers
It’s essential for caregivers to take care of themselves and get the respite they need when they need it. This includes having access to caregiving resources in your area. Here are a few suggestions as well as resources for support and self-care for caregivers:
- Take Care of Yourself – Don’t put off your own physical and mental care because you are busy caring for someone else. It will not benefit you or your loved one/client in the long run, if you neglect yourself. Basics such as eating right, getting regular exercise, finding ways to relax and getting regular medical and dental checkups are essential.
- Join a Caregiver Support Group – If you find that juggling caring for another with caring for yourself is overwhelming, consider joining a local or online caregiver support group. It helps a lot to talk to and share with others who are in the same situation.
- Prevent Caregiver Burnout – Caregiving is not always easy. The emotional load and stress – especially if you are the type of person who has a lot of compassion and empathy – can lead to burnout, which can in turn affect your overall health and wellbeing. It’s important to know the signs of burnout and prevent it from getting out of control. If you think you may be experiencing burnout, seek the help of a mental health professional or caregiver coach as soon as possible.
- Identify Caregiver Resources – Find and bookmark caregiving resources in your area. Examples are Meals-On-Wheels, adult daycare, in-home care services, and assisted living communities that offer respite care, so you can get a much-needed break. Check out the National Alliance for Caregiving for an abundance of helpful information. For local resources and caregiver support options, visit the Frederick Co. Division of Senior Services.
- Plan Ahead – If you are caring for an aging parent, it’s very important to have a plan in place should circumstances change. Don’t wait until there is a crisis to have this important conversation with your parents. Identify what circumstances might lead to considering a long-term care solution for your parent and involve them in the process of planning ahead.
- Create a Budget – It’s important to have a caregiving budget that includes planning for any necessary changes in the future. If caregiving for a family member creates a financial burden, look into sources of financial assistance. Plan ahead so your support of your loved one doesn’t jeopardize your own financial health or retirement plan.
These tips and resources should help start you on your way to taking good care of yourself while caring for others. We’ll leave you with this quote by a caregiver of a cancer patient, which should be taken to heart for anyone in a caregiving role:
“Like airplane passengers, let’s not forget to put on our own oxygen masks first … we are no good to our loved ones if we collapse under the strain.” – Peter Bailey