Caretakers can ironically be much harder on themselves than the loved ones they are caring for. Caretaking is not an easy job. You can’t call in sick or take a week off. More difficult, caretakers often think, “If only I did that, my loved one would do better.” Self-care is almost as important if not more important than the act of caretaking itself. A caretaker that has experienced burnout cannot reasonably be expected to fulfill many challenging caretaking duties. Below are ten ways that caretakers can take care of themselves.
1. Set daily goals for you and your loved one
Daily goals can include anything from renting a movie and watching it together to going to the park across the street as a duo. Instead of falling into a dreary routine of household chores and medical appointments, do something pleasant together. It can be as simple as going outside to enjoy a sunny day or going for a scenic drive.
2. Ask for help
There is no shame in needing a few hours or a day to yourself. Also, it is important to have someone else familiar with your caretaking routines in the event you are sick or injured. Having an afternoon of total reprieve from caretaking can have multiple benefits. Not only can you relax, but you also know that there is another person you can trust to assist in caretaking in the event of an emergency.
3. Be kind to yourself
Caretaking is not easy. Never get down on yourself for a simple oversight, such as missing a single appointment. Invest in simple things such as a weekly pill organizer to make your life easier and ensure that you don’t forget important medication.
4. Adopt a pet
Pets can be even more work. However, spending time with animals can help you relax and provide companionship as well as unconditional love. Some caretakers have reported that they feel better about leaving loved ones home alone with the knowledge that a cat or dog will be there to keep them company.
5. Continue to socialize
Caretaking can feel very isolating. Stay in touch with family and close friends. Also, utilize resources in your community that offer assistance or at-home services on a sliding scale. Go to a class at the local rec center or volunteer together.
6. Active therapy programs
Some popular therapy programs which may assist your loved one (and yourself) include therapeutic horseback riding lessons, art classes, and exercise groups. Whereas the therapeutic classes might help your loved one physically, driving to a ranch and getting a chance to go out can help you as well.
7. Check in with yourself
It’s good to periodically ask yourself how you are doing. Keeping a journal can help keep things in perspective so that you can tell if you need to seek additional help or if you just had a really bad week. It’s better to realize that you might not be holding up as well as you thought and find a way to get necessary assistance before you find yourself burnt out.
8. Find greater meaning in caretaking
There are a variety of ways to find more meaning in caretaking than fulfilling a commitment by helping a loved one. Utilize your talents to help others in similar situations. You could write essays, speak at conferences, create arts and crafts, organize a support group, or work on fundraising. Use your personal experience to help improve the lives of others.
9. Attend a support group
A quality support group will help caretakers exchange ideas and learn coping skills instead of being an hour in which people complain. You can learn more about your loved one’s condition and what you can do to help your loved one and yourself. Also, you will be surrounded by others who understand how difficult caretaking can be.
10. Remember why you are a caretaker
Always remember why you are a caretaker. Your loved one will always be someone you care deeply about. When times get tough, look at pictures and videos of better times. Remember that the loved one you are caring for is still the same person despite an unfortunate accident or medical catastrophe.
Being a caretaker can be extremely difficult. It can often be described as bittersweet. By being cognizant about self-care, you can be a more effective caretaker while also helping your loved one live a better life.
Lauren Hill writes for Lift Caregiving, a Richmond, VA organization offering free support for caregivers such as social forums, local resource listings and a full line of products to aid in making life easier for the patient and caregiver.