Caring for seniors is no small task. As the population continues to age in Canada, more people will find themselves responsible for the care of elderly relatives and loved ones, including parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, and even friends.
Being a caregiver can be a rewarding experience. It also has its challenges and frustrations. What’s important to remember is you, as the caregiver, need to take care of yourself too.
The Importance of Care for the Caregiver
When caring for seniors, it’s possible to become so wrapped up in providing care that you forget to take care of yourself. You may find yourself worrying about your elderly loved one. You may feel guilty if you don’t visit as often as you think you should. You may spend a lot of time helping them with day-to-day tasks, accompanying them to doctors’ appointments, or just paying the bills.
It’s easy to lose track of self-care when there’s so much to be done! Most research indicates caring for yourself is the most important thing a caregiver can do. Follow these steps to practice good self-care while you’re caring for seniors.
Identify Personal Barriers
Many people experience guilt if they put themselves before the person they’re caring for. You may think you’re “being selfish.” Even if you do recognize the importance of caring for yourself, you may feel you’re responsible for the other person and worry about what will happen if you take some time for you.
All of these feelings and concerns are natural. The important thing is to recognize them! Once you recognize these thoughts and feelings, you can begin to challenge them. Why do you feel guilty about taking some time for you? Your loved one probably wants you to take good care of yourself!
Build Yourself Up
Another common problem caregivers have is negative self-talk. Negative statements such as “I never do anything right” can undermine you in your attempts to care for seniors. This can lead to frustration and even resentment.
Instead, try to focus on the positive. Think about what you’re good at. Your elderly loved one no doubt appreciates your efforts, even if they can’t always show it.
Stress is probably the biggest factor affecting those caring for seniors. The additional tasks, time, effort, and responsibilities create a heavy burden for caregivers. This is why it’s so important to create methods for reducing stress.
Reducing stress can sometimes be as simple as knowing when to say “no.” Other stress reduction methods include regular exercise (even 10 or 15 minutes a day can bust stress) and making sure you have adequate “you” time. Pencil in de-stress sessions where you can engage in your favourite activities, such as reading a book or going for a walk.
Ask for Help
You are not alone in providing care for your senior, although you may sometimes feel like you are. There are many people who can help you ensure your senior is getting the care they need. Doctors and nurses can help, as can companion caregivers and others who provide in-home care to seniors.
You can also ask other family members to give you a helping hand. You may still be the primary caregiver, but maybe a sibling can help by taking your parent out once a week or visiting them on the weekend.
Give Yourself a Break
Respite care allows you to take a holiday from caregiving. Caregivers often end up fatigued or burned out because caregiving is an ongoing duty.
Respite care allows your senior to get the care they need in an appropriate setting while you get to take a break.
Be sure to care for yourself when caring for seniors.