Experienced elder law attorney Doug Lauenstein discusses the important factors regarding your own mental and physical health when taking care of others.
It’s no surprise that helping to care for an ill or infirm loved one can take a substantial emotional toll. It’s important to remember that you must first take care of yourself. By not doing so, you put yourself at risk of exhaustion and health problems.
The following ten tips will keep you aware of your own well-being and help you to avoid the stress and other pitfalls of being a primary caregiver.
- Ask for help. This often goes overlooked. Make a list of tasks you’re worried about completing and recruit others to pitch in for help. Even distant relatives and friends may be willing to help manage certain tasks.
- Consider community resources. Call on a geriatric care manager to coordinate all aspects of your loved one’s care. Other service providers, such as health aides or assisted living facilities, can shoulder some of the many responsibilities of caregiving. Volunteers or staff from faith-based organizations or civic groups might visit, cook or help with driving.
- Connect with friends. Isolation increases stress. Make sure you reserve time to get together with friends and relatives for the sake of your own emotional well-being. This will help you to avoid negative emotions and anxiety.
- Put your physical needs first. Eat nutritious meals and don’t skip any of them. Be wary of stress-driven urges that may try to lead you to sweets or alcohol. Try to get enough sleep, even if that means catching a quick nap. It is also important to schedule regular medical check-ups. Additionally, finding time to exercise can benefit not only your physical health, but your mental health as well. Exercise is an excellent reducer of stress. If you experience symptoms of depression or apathy, talk to a medical professional.
- Deal with your feelings. Being a primary caregiver can mean long stretches of time alone, and bottling up your emotions can take a toll on your mental health and your physical well-being. Make sure there are one or more people in your life with whom you can share feelings of frustration and seek support. There are also many caregiver support groups that may be available to you.
- Find time to relax. The demands of being a caregiver can make it difficult to find time for your relaxing avocations, but those demands make it more important than ever that you do so. Block out time for the things you enjoy. Recharge your batteries and consider relaxation techniques such as deep breathing.
- Get organized. Simple resources such as calendars or to-do lists can help with prioritization of responsibilities, and can make a seemingly endless set of tasks seem less overwhelming. Tackle important tasks first and understand that sometimes it is not possible to manage everything in a timely manner. Some things must wait.
- Just say “no.” Accept the fact that you can’t do everything. Resist the urge to take on more than you can physically or mentally handle. This includes activities, projects or financial obligations as well. Absolve yourself of guilt over the tasks you’re unable to complete.
- Take a break. An ailing family member might benefit from someone else’s company, especially if you are not at your best. Think about respite care by friends, relatives or facilities. Turn to a home health agency or nursing home if necessary. Adult day centers usually operate five days a week and provide care in a group setting for older individuals who need supervision.
- Stay positive. Resist negativity and do not dwell on the items you cannot do, but appreciate yourself for all of the help you have provided. Remember to focus on the rewards of caring for a loved one.
Although focusing on your own well-being may seem selfish at first, remember that you won’t be of much use as a caregiver if you’re not at your best physically or mentally. In order to take care of others, we must first take care of ourselves. For more information regarding healthy methods of long-term care, contact experienced elder law attorney Doug Lauenstein today.