According to theMayo Clinic, one in three adults in the United States provides care on an informal basis for family members who are either ill, injured, disabled, or aging. These caregivers often experience excess stress, which can lead to depression, social isolation, financial difficulties, and burnout.
Though I absolutely loved my grandmother, I still went through so many challenges when I was taking care of her before she passed away, and I learned a lot along the way, so I thought I would share some tips with you.
#1 Ask for Help
At some point, you may need additional help as you balance your caregiver role with other areas of your life. Fortunately, there are several options that may provide you with the help you need.
- Community Resources – Many communities have resources that you may benefit from. These include everything from support groups for specific illnesses to meal delivery and housekeeping services. Contact yourArea Agency on Aging (AAA) for more information on services available in your community.
- Adult Day Programs – If your parent is able to travel outside the home, you may consider an adult day program, which can provide your loved one with valuable social experiences while giving you a break.
- In-Home Respite Care – If you can afford it, you could arrange for in-home respite care services, which would involve having someone come in to provide care when you are not at home for your parent (things come up!).
- Other Family Members – It’s a good idea to ask for help from other family members; if you can. You could enlist someone to step in so you can have the time you need to get things done and take care of yourself.
#2 Stay Connected to Friends and Family
It is important to stay connected to your friends and other family members when you are the primary caregiver for your parent. When I was taking care of my grandmother, I made sure to have lunch with my friends at least once a week (sometimes it could be twice). Spending time with my friends helped keep me connected and provided a nice break for me.
#3 Find a Schedule That Works
It is crucial that you and your parent have clear expectations about what your role should be. You might decide to have a schedule for daily activities and an agreement about the amount of time you will provide care. With that said, it is also important to be flexible. You never know when something unexpected may happen.
#4 Talk with Other Caregivers
Fellow caregivers can be a great resource for you, and the relationships you build can be a source of support for one another. There may be times when you need to talk with someone about what you are going through, and other times, you may just want to vent. If you share your frustrations with your loved one, it may make them feel like a burden. That is not productive, and it helps no one, but talking with other caregivers can provide you with a sounding board when you need one. If you don’t know any other caregivers, I suggest you find a local support group to meet some or even go online for a few Facebook communities.
#5 Take Care of Yourself
When you are busy taking care of your parent, grandparent, or another family member, it can be easy to neglect your own needs. It is absolutely necessary for your own well-being that you take time for yourself. Relax, read a book, get a pedicure, go for a walk, have lunch with friends, or find a yoga class. Even something as simple as taking a few minutes to meditate each day can help reduce stress.
This tip helped me through some really tough times when I was too focused on caring for my grandmother that I forgot to think about my own well-being.
#6 Consider Taking a Break from Work
If you work outside the home in addition to being a caregiver, you may want to consider taking a temporary leave of absence from your job. The federalFamily and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) allows covered employees to take up to 12 weeks off per year to take care of relatives. While this leave is unpaid, it protects you from being terminated from your job while you are taking care of your loved one.
Most family caregivers are caregivers purely out of love, and there is a great deal of sacrifice for many of these family members. Even if you don’t hear it every day, just remember that what you are doing is important, and you are appreciated and valued by the person you are caring for and by other family members who are unable to do what you are doing. Keeping these tips in mind may help you have a less stressful and more fulfilling experience as you care for someone you love.