Family caregiving starts off with the best of loving intentions that stresses, over time, can stand on their heads.
Caregivers can go from putting in too much effort to hardly being able to put in any effort at all. From feeling energetic to feeling drained and helpless. From seeing the person you’re caring for as a loved parent or relative to seeing him or her as a troublesome, impersonal burden.
But it doesn’t have to be that way, particularly if you follow these steps:
1. Don’t aim too high – Too many family caregivers aim for perfection in caring for someone they love. While this may be admirable, it can often be a recipe for guilt and depression when any care is short of 100% perfect. There’s a kind of Pareto distribution, or 20/80 rule, at work in caregiving tasks. It takes only 20% of the time and effort to accomplish the first 80%, and 80% of the effort to accomplish the last 20%. But 80% is a high passing grade. So when you’re doing the laundry, you don’t have to match socks then and there. Maybe you don’t have to vacuum every single room every single day. The French philosopher Voltaire once wrote, “Perfect is the enemy of good.”
2. Go easy on yourself – Once you accept the fact that good really is good enough, you’ll be able to realize you’re doing your best. With that realization, the energy that went into beating up on yourself and taking guilt trips can now go into taking good care of your parent and better care of yourself.
3. Make a care plan for yourself, too – Build time into your daily schedule to do things for yourself, too. To listen to music, take a short walk, sit on the porch and get some sun; whatever it takes to give you more time you can call your own.
4. Limit your screen time – Too much social media time can make you feel physically isolated and cut you off from real, person-to-person connections, creating feelings of depression and anxiety. Cutting down on screen time at night can also help you with the next step.
5. Get enough restorative sleep – Insufficient sleep can be bad for our mental and emotional outlook. Potentially, there’s a vicious cycle at work: Frustrating nonstop efforts to achieve perfection can provoke feelings of guilt and anxiety that cut into your sleep time, which saps the energy for accomplishing your too-high goals, which triggers guilt and anxiety, and so on. Cutting down on screen time can help you get more sleep, in several ways. First, you’ll be able to go to bed earlier. Second, you’ll have less blue-light exposure just before bedtime. And third, if you use the time for real-world connections, even by phone, you’ll feel less emotionally isolated.
6. If you need outside help, get the right kind – Virtually all caregiving agencies focus on their clients’ needs – as they should. But at Senior Insights, we go a step further. Our thorough three-part needs assessment defines the needs of not just potential clients, but of their family members – particularly those who are caregivers – too. As a result, our individually designed holistic senior care management plans work in ways that others don’t. They help clients receive the customized care they need while helping family members become better and happier caregivers as well.
Please contact us to learn what a difference that approach can make.