In part one of this this series, we looked at the signs of stress and burnout. Here, we offer tips on achieving balance, and even thriving, as a caregiver. If these tips resonate with you or make you think of another caregiver who could use support, consider sharing this resource with them.
How to Affirm Yourself and Get Support
Reframing your perspective and leaning on others for support are vital to affirming your caregiving choices and struggles.
More power to you. Feeling powerless is the number one contributor to burnout and depression. And it’s an easy trap to fall into as a caregiver, especially if you feel stuck in a role you didn’t expect or helpless to change things for the better. But no matter the situation, know that you aren’t powerless. This is especially true when it comes to your state of mind. You can’t always get the extra time, money, or assistance you’d like, but you can always cultivate more happiness and hope.
Embrace your role. Acknowledge that, despite any resentments or burdens you feel, you have made a conscious choice to provide care. Focus on the positive reasons behind that choice. Perhaps you are repaying your parent for the care they gave you growing up. Or maybe it’s because of your values or the example you want to set for your children. These deep, meaningful motivations can help sustain you through tough times.
But don’t let it take over your entire existence. Invest in things that give you meaning and purpose—whether it’s your family, your career, a favorite hobby, or your spirituality and belief system.
Try the following tips to ease your burden and feel more balanced:
Focus on what you can control. You can’t wish your mother’s Alzheimer’s away or force your brother to do his part. Rather than stressing out over things beyond your control, focus on how you choose to react to problems.
Imagine how your loved one would respond if they were healthy. If they weren’t disabled or preoccupied with illness or pain, how would your loved one feel about the care you’re providing? Remind yourself that the person would express more gratitude if they were able.
Celebrate the small victories. If you start to feel discouraged, remind yourself that all your efforts matter. You don’t have to cure your loved one’s illness to make a difference. Don’t underestimate the importance of making your loved one feel more safe, comfortable, and loved!
Find ways to acknowledge and reward yourself. Remind yourself of the good you’re doing. If you need something more concrete, try making a list of all the ways your caregiving is making a positive difference. Review the list when you start to feel low.
Get the appreciation you need. Feeling appreciated can go a long way towards managing a stressful situation, and enjoying life more. Studies show that caregivers who feel appreciated experience greater physical and emotional health. Believe it or not, caregiving actually makes them happier and healthier, despite its demands.
Seek support from family members and friends. Positive reinforcement doesn’t have to come from the person you’re caring for. Remember that when you’re feeling unappreciated, friends and family will listen to you and acknowledge your efforts.
How to Ask For Help
Taking on all of the responsibilities of caregiving without regular breaks or assistance is a surefire recipe for burnout. Don’t try to do it all alone.
Just say “yes.” Don’t be shy about accepting help. Let people feel good about supporting you. Develop a list of of small tasks that others could easily take care of, such as picking up groceries or driving your loved one to an appointment. Have it ready when someone offers to help you.
Look into respite care. Enlist friends and family who live near you to run errands, bring a hot meal, or watch your loved one so you can take a well-deserved break. In-home services can also be provided by volunteers or paid help, either occasionally or on a regular basis. You can also explore out-of-home respite programs such as adult day care centers and nursing homes.
Speak up. Don’t expect friends and family members to automatically know what you need or how you’re feeling. Be up front about what’s going on with you and the person you’re caring for. If you have concerns or thoughts, express them. People often make incorrect assumptions, and can be poor mind-readers.
Delegate. Involve as many family members as possible. Even someone who lives far away may be able to help. Also, try divvying up caregiving tasks. One person can oversee medical issues, another can look after finances, and another with manage groceries and errands, for example.
Communicate. Ask a family member, friend, or volunteer from your church or senior center to call you on a set basis. This person can help you spread status updates and coordinate with other family members.
Lose (some) control. Managing is one thing; trying to control every aspect of care is another. People will be less likely to help if you micromanage, give orders, or insist on only doing things your way.
Ultimately, the most important element of finding balance is having support!
A caregiver support group is a great way to share your troubles and find people who are navigating similar experiences. If you can't leave the house, many Internet groups are also available. To find a community support group, look online, ask your doctor or hospital, or call a local organization that specializes in your loved one’s health problem. To find an Internet support group, visit the websites of organizations dedicated to your loved one’s health issue.
Our next blog will focus on you, caregiver, and how to make space for your own health and happiness while caregiving.
H3329_2019_Overwhelm2 Approved 03052019
Last updated February 11, 2019