9 Ways to Look After Yourself as a Caregiver

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It can be one of the most fulfilling roles in the world, but there’s no doubt that being a caregiver can also be one of the most demanding and stressful experiences as well. If you’re caring for an elderly parent or a brand new parent, you can often feel worn-out, fearful and lonely, even if you know you are doing the best thing for your relative. However, it’s also important to make sure you are living a fulfilled life. These nine tips will help you keep a healthy balance between caring for someone you love and caring for yourself.

  1. Accept the reality of your situation

Maybe your partner is slowly submitting to dementia and you feel as though you’re losing the person you love, or perhaps you’re mourning the future you’d imagined for your child. Don’t feel guilty for grieving over these things. It may take time to accept the situation, but it’s important to come to terms with the reality so you can move on.

 

  1. Find out what you’re entitled to receive

It’s essential to find out what help you’re entitled to receive, so that you and your loved one have the best quality of life. Investigate what your insurance offers, learn benefits you may be entitled too, and discover the best ways to get specialist equipment or house adaptations carried out.

 

  1. Care for yourself first

This may seem like the ultimate in betrayal, but if your mental or physical health breaks down then your loved one may need to go into residential care. Living a fulfilled life yourself will improve your own mental health and help you be more positive when facing the difficulties involved in caring.

 

  1. Decide what you need in order to be fulfilled

As a caregiver, you’ll need to be practical and plan ahead to carve out some ‘me’ time. Make a list of things you’d like to do every day, every month, and perhaps a couple of bigger things (like a holiday) every year. Then think about exactly what must happen to allow you to achieve them. Be inventive and think outside the box—you never know what you can achieve until you try.

 

  1. Accept help

Whether you get assistance from kind friends and family or opt for more professional support such as that provided by a care worker or cleaner, try to muster as much help as possible. There’s no value in struggling to do everything yourself, and you may be surprised at the results. My parents resisted asking for help with getting my disabled father up and dressed each day, but once it became essential, these carers quickly became good friends too. Try a ‘double-caring’ session first if necessary, with you showing someone else how to do things.

 

  1. Make everyday life easier

Although it may seem tiring at first, working ahead and preparing things in advance can really make a difference to your overall tiredness levels. Use a weekly organizer for medication so you only count out tablets once. Cook meals in batches and freeze them in individual portions, or keep some ready-cooked meals on hand for days when cooking from scratch seems like just too much. Lay out breakfast items and tomorrow’s clothing the night before, so you’re not rushed in the morning.

 

  1. Give yourself daily treats

Even little things can make a huge difference to your outlook. A daily scented bath, time alone to get lost in a book, or a brisk ten minute walk can all be lifesavers when it comes to getting through the day, so plan a few treats that can fit into your daily routine.

 

  1. Get out regularly

It can be tempting to simple collapse on the couch when you have time to yourself. But getting out and about will not only reinvigorate you—it will also help you avoid the loss of confidence that comes from spending weeks and months at home. Try a weekly exercise class, a photography course or attending a worship session at your church or synagogue.

 

  1. Meet with other caregivers

Lastly, sharing your experience with others is a great release, and you can also get useful tips about how to manage your role from people who are in the same position. If meeting others in person is difficult, link up with other caregivers online to experience mutual support.

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