Tending to the care and needs of a loved one can be both mentally and physically exhausting. Whether you are caring for an ill spouse, child, or aging parent, the stress can be unrelenting and can ultimately take a mental, physical, and emotional toll. When you’re burned out it’s tough to do anything, let alone take care of someone else. That’s why taking care of yourself isn’t a selfish it’s a necessity. How can you keep your sanity and be the best possible caregiver to your loved one?
Here are some handy tips:
- Ask for help: this is probably the best thing you can to do prevent burnout. Enlist as many other family members or close family friends to help as you can. Divide up the tasks (doctor appointments, finances, errands, household chores) so that you are not faced with the entire load. Don’t expect family and friends to assume you need assistance. You will need to speak up and ASK for help! Don’t be shy about accepting help when offered, even if you think you have everything under control. You’ll be surprised how good it feels to have one or two things less to do.
- Give yourself a break: you can’t be a good, compassionate caregiver without allowing yourself some time to de-stress and recharge your batteries. Try your best to maintain contacts with friends and continue your normal daily activities. Even if you can get out once or twice a week to do something just for yourself, it will go a long way to benefit your emotional health. Schedule a time for another family member or friend to come and stay a few hours with your loved one while you go to the gym, have coffee with a friend, or go to a movie with your neighbor.
- Maintain your own health: it’s so easy to fall into the trap of not keeping up with your own health needs when you are the primary caregiver. You must remember to get to your own doctor appointments, exercise, eat well, and get plenty of sleep. If you are sick, who will take care of your loved one? Making your own health a priority is not being selfish, it’s essential to your ability to care for your loved one.
- Join a support group: if you feel like you have no one you can vent to, bounce ideas off, or get helpful tips from, join a caregiver support group! There are plenty of support groups that meet locally and a number of online support groups and message boards available. A quick internet search for these groups will allow you to find the right one for your situation.
Don’t let caregiving take over your whole life. It’s easier to accept a difficult situation when you have a positive outlook and making yourself a priority is an absolute must in order to be the best possible caregiver for your loved one.