Being a family caregiver has never been easy. But now, with all the added stresses from the pandemic, it’s harder than ever – so much harder that a June CDC survey of unpaid family caregivers found that reported cases of anxiety disorder had tripled compared to second quarter 2019, and cases of depression disorder had quadrupled.
All too often, this results from caregivers being emotionally torn between caring for a family member they love, and who really needs their help, and taking even the most routine care of themselves. So even without clinical depression or anxiety, they can find themselves becoming irritable, fatigued, forgetful, bored and apathetic, cancelling plans, and pulling back from everyday activities.
But if you’re a family caregiver, here are five things you can do to help prevent compassion fatigue from wearing you down and burning you out:
Don’t feel guilty about taking care of yourself, too. You can’t take care of others if you don’t also take care of yourself. Taking time for yourself isn’t selfish; it’s necessary. Know your capacity, work to keep a 10% reserve, and don’t be afraid to say no when you reach it. You’re not Atlas, holding up the whole world, so it’s okay to ask for help. Make sure you get some rest, to recharge after a day of physical and mental fatigue. And, above all, be kind to yourself.
2. Plan instead of just reacting. Constantly reacting to your family member’s needs can leave you with a sense of powerlessness. But proactively planning can put you back in control. Pick a specific hour on a specific day of each week, and use that time to make a written schedule – either in a calendar book or on your computer or smartphone’s digital calendar. (Digital calendars are better because you can schedule them to give you reminders and, if yours is on your phone, to carry it with you.) Block off time each day for working, shopping, exercising, sleeping, quiet time, spiritual time, doctor appointments, being with family and friends – and, of course, caregiving. Be realistic, and be flexible enough to leave time for unexpected events.
3. Recharge yourself physically. Getting enough sleep is a good way to recharge. So are good hydration and nutrition – not skipping meal sand starving yourself, and not binge-eating as a stress reliever or antidepressant. Deep breathing, exercise, stretching, and soothing therapeutic massage are much better for that.
4. Recharge yourself emotionally. Take some quiet time. Do some drawing, painting, craftwork, or singing. Get some spiritual nourishment. Reach out to family members, close friends, co-workers, mentors, counselors, and faith and support groups that you can trust to openly share with – even vent to. And, above all, remember to give thanks for, and take joy in, the good work you’re doing so unselfishly.
5. Learn ways to lighten the load. Maybe there are quicker, less demanding ways to perform some of your caregiving tasks. Or maybe a little bit of outside help each week could work wonders for your stamina and your outlook. That’s what our detailed three-part needs assessment is for. In it, we interview the elder and his or her family to assess physical, psychosocial and mental status and determine what type and level of care are really needed. We can then recommend a coordinated program of holistic senior care that helps you give your family member the care he or she needs – and lets you care for yourself too.
To see what a difference holistic senior care can make, please call or contact us to arrange a comprehensive consultation