As a caregiver, it’s very easy to forget about taking care of yourself when you are laser-focused on taking care of another person. Frequently, caregivers have too much on their plates. If you’re one of these people, you know that even though you’ve prepared fully, surprises can leave you looking for help or new solutions.
To be successful, it is vital to remember to keep yourself healthy. The following tips are intended to encourage you and to provide solutions to the challenges you may face as you balance this difficult and most-important job.
Caregiving is physically and emotionally tiring. To provide the best care, you need to be well-rested and rejuvenated. Don’t feel guilty about taking a break. Make sure you take time for yourself at least once a day, even if only for 15 minutes.
Confide in your doctor
The more your doctor is aware about your care or work situation, the better s/he can assess and support your health needs. When your doctor knows you’re a caregiver, s/he will ask questions unique to your work to better assess any warning signs that spell trouble. Knowledgeable doctors will provide recommendations and resources to give you the care and help you need.
As a primary caregiver, you may feel there is the expectation that you should be able to do everything yourself. As much as you would like to, it will lead to burnout, poor health, and even a negative attitude toward your loved one. You owe it to yourself and your care recipient to accept help. This could mean having a neighbor or family member spend time with your loved one or drive him/her to the doctor. This will not only help you share the responsibilities, but also free up extra personal time for you.
Be open to change
Openness to new solutions can help you in your role. Educating yourself about new technologies, community resources, and doctors in the area will help you keep your loved one as independent as possible.
Trust your gut
You know your family member or person best, and your instincts will usually lead you in the right direction. It is important to believe in yourself and trust that you are doing the best you can.
A support group can provide emotional support, solutions to common problems, and provide a network of people going through similar situations. Test out different support groups—online or in-person—until you find a group that makes you feel comfortable.
Stand up for yourself
Know your rights as a caregiver. Often, signing on for a caregiver role coincides with work responsibilities. Unexpected calls may come at any time forcing you to drop everything and go. Check with your employer to see if you qualify for the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA).
Familiarize yourself with local community resources. Many have resources such as adult assistance, transportation services and meal services—all designed to keep people healthy and as independent as they can be. Some of these may even be free of charge!
Despite the emotional and physical toll of caregiving, caregivers who practice self-care, will find it to be one of the most rewarding jobs.
Romilla Batra, MD is a board-certified internist and chief medical officer for SCAN. Founded in 1977, SCAN is a not-for-profit organization committed to keeping seniors healthy and independent. It delivers on that mission through SCAN Health Plan, one of the largest Medicare Advantage plans in the nation. Independence at Home (IAH), a SCAN community service, provides vitally needed services and support for seniors, disabled adults, and their caregivers.