One in three adults in the U.S. cares for an aging or disabled loved one. If you’re one of these family caregivers, you know how demanding the role can be. It can lead to caregiver stress in the form of burnout, fatigue, exhaustion and even resentment toward your family member. It can also cause frustration and guilt, which can take a heavy toll on your mind and body.
In fact, according to a report from AARP, 36% of family caregivers would describe their situation as “highly stressful.” In addition, the number of caregivers who would characterize themselves as in excellent health has dropped from 48% in 2015 to 41% in 2020. It’s no wonder, as studies have shown that caregiving can lead to physical ailments, like high blood pressure, depression and anxiety.
The good news is, there are ways to avoid caregiver burnout and maintain a healthy balance in your life. This is important not only for you, but your loved one as well.
Are You Suffering from Caregiver Burnout and Stress?
If you’re noticing more irritability than usual, depression, exhaustion, or an increase in health problems, you could be suffering from burnout. Here are some tips to cope:
#1: Accept Help
Sometimes, the biggest stumbling block is reaching out, asking for and accepting help. It’s difficult to think you can’t handle everything on your own. However, the reality is that when a loved one requires ongoing care and support, it’s impossible to handle it all alone. You need help, whether it’s from friends, family, church groups, neighbors, or others. So, be willing to accept it.
#2: Talk it Out
If you’re struggling with stress from caregiving – and dealing with mental health issues as a result – talk to a friend or even a counselor. These are normal emotions to have. Learning how to cope with them and overcome them will help you regain your mental balance and sense of well-being.
#3: Join a Support Group
In today’s tech-driven world, there are family caregiver support groups you can join all over the country. Social media sites, like Facebook, even have private groups you can join to ask questions, share your struggles related to caregiver stress and get and provide comfort. This can also lift your spirits and provide hope that you’re not alone.
#4: Outsource and Delegate
Are there certain errands you could outsource for your loved one? For instance, could you have their groceries delivered on a weekly basis? Could you hire a housekeeper to clean their home and do their laundry? Are there other areas where you could hire a company to handle a task, like mowing the lawn and home maintenance? The more you’re able to outsource and delegate to others, the less will be on your list to complete. This will go a long way in reducing caregiver stress.
#5: Have Fun
Stepping away and spending time with your family and friends, as well as socializing are important to a healthy, balanced life. Don’t feel guilty for taking time away from caregiving to have fun. You need it to improve your perspective and your mood.
#6: Stay Fit
Make sure you’re taking care of your own health. This can include a well-balanced diet, exercise, ample sleep and limited alcohol. Just a few minor adjustments, such as drinking more water during the day, can go a long way in making you feel healthier and stronger. Also make sure you’re taking care of your medical needs and going to your own doctor for regular check-ups.
#7: Take Breaks from the Stress of Being a Caregiver
This sounds easy enough. However, if you don’t have a family member or friend to step in and care for your loved one, it can feel impossible. If this is your situation, consider an adult day care or professional caregivers who can offer you respite help. They will aid and support your loved one in many ways, while you step away and get the rest you need.
Caregiving is a rewarding role. However, it’s also highly stressful. It’s important to take breaks and take care of yourself to maintain your own health and life. It’s not something to feel guilty about. In fact, when you return to care for your loved one, you’ll be able to do so with more patience, compassion and energy. It’s truly a win for you both.
Reduce caregiver stress and refocus on your life with respite care from our team of compassionate caregivers. Contact your local FirstLight® Home Care today to find out more about our customized services.