Self-Care: An Essential Tool for Caregiving

Self-Care: An Essential Tool for Caregiving

The saying “you must fill your cup before filling others” is a quote that holds true with caregiving. Although the bonds and fulfillment of caring for others can be a driving force for caregivers, caregiving can also be quite a taxing role to take on. Meeting the needs and responsibilities of those in your care can oftentimes lead to negative effects on the caregiver’s physical and mental well-being. Neglecting to address these effects may eventually take a toll on both the caregiver and those in their care. Whether you are a family caregiver or a professional caregiver, making time to care for yourself is essential and should never be seen as selfish. 

When providing care, it’s natural to prioritize the needs of your loved one over your own, but doing so can lead to caregiver burnout and negatively impact your mental and physical health. It’s essential to keep an eye out for symptoms of burnout and take appropriate measures to prevent it.

Signs of Caregiver Burnout

  • Trouble sleeping too little or too much
  • Exhaustion that makes daily tasks difficult
  • Feelings of dread, guilt, being overwhelmed, or anxiousness
  • Easily agitated
  • Physical symptoms—headaches, stomach aches, getting sick more often, changes in weight
  • Withdrawing from people or hobbies you enjoy
  • Feeling disconnected from reality or that caregiving is taking over your life

Self-care is not selfish. It’s essential for your physical, mental, and emotional health. Taking care of yourself and addressing these symptoms allows you to better care for your loved ones. Self-care can help you:

  • Reduce Stress: Find ways to help you manage the stress that may be brought on by caregiving. Blast your favorite tunes, take a walk, write your thoughts down in a journal, meditate — whatever your style may be, find what aids in a significant and positive impact on your stress levels.
  • Boost Your Immune System: When you’re not taking care of yourself, you’re more likely to get sick. Taking time to rest, eat healthy, and exercise can help keep your immune system strong.
  • Improve Your Mental Health: Setting time aside for yourself can help improve your mood, reduce anxiety, and prevent depression.
  • Enhance Your Quality of Life: When you’re taking care of yourself, you’re better able to enjoy life and take pleasure in the things that matter most to you.

Self-Care Tips for Caregivers

Here are some self-care tips that can help you maintain your physical, mental, and emotional well-being while caring for others:

  • Take Time for Yourself: Whether it’s a few minutes or a few hours, it’s essential to take time for yourself each day. Use this time to do something you enjoy, such as reading a book, taking a bath, or spending time with friends.
  • Prioritize Sleep: Sleep is crucial for your physical and mental health. Aim for 7-8 hours of sleep each night, and try to maintain a consistent sleep schedule.
  • Exercise Regularly: Exercise has been proven to reduce stress, improve your mood, and keep you healthy. Try to get at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise each day, such as walking, yoga, or swimming.
  • Eat a Healthy Diet: Eating a balanced diet can help you stay healthy and energized. Aim for plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein.
  • Practice Mindfulness: Mindfulness is a practice that can help reduce stress and improve your overall well-being. Try meditation, deep breathing exercises, or yoga to help you stay present in the moment.
  • Reach Out: Seek help from a professional if needed or create a support network for yourself. Simply having someone to talk to or listen can be so cathartic.  

Self-care is essential for caregivers. By taking care of yourself, you’ll be better able to care for your loved ones and enjoy a higher quality of life. Remember, self-care is not selfish. It’s a necessary part of being a caregiver.

Still unsure if you are experiencing burnout? Try this caregiver assessment from the American Medical Association. 

Related Articles: 
Caregiver Tips to Proactively Prioritize Your Mental Health
Caregivers: Making An Impact Isn’t Always Easy

Commemorating Caregivers

Commemorating Caregivers

National Family Caregiver Month — Every day, but especially the month of November, is a time to commemorate the caregivers in our lives and across the country, draw awareness of caregiving issues, educate the community, and increase support for caregivers. 

Providing care for loved ones is rewarding and fulfilling but can also become overwhelming. Studies indicate that a vast majority of caregivers experience anxiety and depression as it is easy to get wrapped up in the health of loved ones, as well as see it as a foreshadowing of what may happen to oneself. This emotional and physical toll on caregivers is called burnout. 

While caring for others, caregivers tend to forget about themselves or push their needs aside. Caregivers advocate for a healthy diet, routine exercise, mental practices, and proper treatments with their clients. Still, it is important to practice what they preach and habituate these daily practices in their own lives as well. 

“One must fill their own cup before filling others” is a saying that’s often easier said than done. But through continuing to empower and support the caregivers in our lives and community, the adverse repercussions often associated with caregiving can be reduced and diminished, enabling caregivers to provide care for themselves and loved ones longer and stronger.

Ways to Support & Commemorate Caregivers 

  • Routinely reach out and check on the caregivers in your life. 
  • Ask about their day. 
  • Offer a helping hand with daily tasks (laundry, dishes, housekeeping, etc.) 
  • Lend a listening ear or shoulder to lean on.
  • Cook them a meal or invite them out to dinner.
  • Write a thank you letter about the amazing care they have given you and your family. 
  • Encourage them to seek mental health services if necessary. 

Whatever it may be, find a way to make the caregiver in your life feel included, heard, and loved.

Ways to Recharge as a Caregiver

  • Practice healthy living with routine exercise and a balanced diet. 
  • Find time for a hobby that makes you happy and feel accomplished, creative, or peaceful. 
  • Discover a mindful practice that brings you peace of mind or an outlet to channel your emotions. 
  • Journal. Getting your thoughts out on paper (or digitally) can be very therapeutic.
  • Establish a support system however feels best for you — through friends and family, a support group, etc. 
  • Reach out when needed, either to your support system or a healthcare or mental health professional.

Never feel guilty for taking time for yourself. Taking the time to care for oneself can ultimately lengthen the strides in your life as well as those around you and those you are caring for. If you’re a family caregiver and struggling with caregiver burnout, please reach out to us and let us help you care for you

Related Articles: 
Caregiver Burnout Prevention
Resources Available For Family Caregivers
Caregiver Tips to Proactively Prioritize Your Mental Health

Caregiver Burnout Prevention

The first step to being an awesome caregiver is caring for yourself. 

Caregivers sometimes feel overwhelmed with the responsibility of caring for their loved ones. They’re often providing support for someone else’s needs without recharging between tasks. This can lead to the feeling of being overworked and overwhelmed physically and emotionally—commonly known as burnout.

Caregiver burnout is a term that refers to the physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion experienced by stressed caregivers. It can lead to symptoms like depression or anxiety which make it difficult for them to provide quality care for their loved ones. Fortunately, there are ways to help prevent this from happening. Keep reading to find out how!

Signs of caregiver burnout

As a caregiver, you may focus on your loved one and overlook the toll that stress can take. It’s important to watch for signs of burnout.

  • Trouble sleeping too little or too much
  • Exhaustion that makes daily tasks difficult
  • Feelings of dread, guilt, being overwhelmed, or anxiousness
  • Easily agitated
  • Physical symptoms—headaches, stomach aches, getting sick more often, changes in weight
  • Withdrawing from people or hobbies you enjoy
  • Feeling disconnected from reality or that caregiving is taking over your life

Still unsure if you are experiencing burnout? Try this caregiver assessment from the American Medical Association.

Causes of caregiver burnout

Burnout is often the result of neglecting physical, emotional, and mental needs, but the following issues can also contribute.

  • Conflicting roles: When you become a caregiver, it can be difficult to separate your role as caregiver from other important relationships such as a parent, spouse, friend, or co-worker. You may find yourself neglecting other important relationships or letting them come second.
  • Unrealistic expectations: Caregivers often expect their care to have a positive impact on their loved one’s health, but this is not always realistic—especially for patients suffering from progressive diseases such as Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s. Caregivers are also often overburdened—either by the expectations they’ve placed on themselves or by family members who demand more of them than they can handle. If you have an elderly loved one who needs memory care in Albuquerque, our specialized CARE programs can help.
  • Lack of control: Many caregivers find themselves frustrated by a lack of money, resources, and skills to effectively care for their loved one. It can also be overwhelming to feel like you had no choice in caregiving or that you have no privacy due to the time it takes to care for your loved one.

Preventing caregiver burnout

Caregiving is an important role that can come with the highest emotional and physical demands. It’s crucial to take care of yourself in order for you to be able to provide quality assistance when providing loved ones care. Now that you know what signs and causes to watch out for, here are some burnout prevention tips! 

Have realistic expectations and goals

Caring for a loved one can be an overwhelming experience. That’s why it is important to set realistic expectations, create daily routines, break down large goals into small tasks, or even just say no when requests feel like too much! Allow yourself to take breaks from caregiving, and share responsibilities with other family members. A Place At Home offers in-home care services 24/7 or even a few hours a day that can help share the load.

Accept negative feelings as a normal part of caregiving—it doesn’t mean that you’re a bad person or that your loved one needs more care, but rather it is a result of your overwhelming role. It’s normal to feel guilty at times, but know that no one is a perfect caregiver. You’re doing your best with what information and knowledge you have—even when things don’t go exactly as planned!

Support network

Create a support network for yourself consisting of family, friends, and your community. Communicate with family and friends about your loved one’s health and situation. Join a support group online or in your community with others who face the same challenges as you. Find resources for caregivers in your area such as transportation, food delivery, or housekeeping. A Place At Home offers in-home care for seniors in Albuquerque that can help make life easier.

Take time to build positive relationships outside of caregiving, especially with those who offer nonjudgmental emotional support. Create a time each week to do this, even if it is just a phone call with a friend!

Stay healthy

Don’t neglect your own health while caring for someone else. Set personal health goals and routines, and achieve them. Get plenty of sleep, drink water, exercise frequently, and eat a healthy diet. Remember to set your own doctor’s appointments and screenings. Talk to professionals—such as doctors, therapists, or social workers trained to counsel people in mental and emotional issues. 

Caregiving can be rewarding yet overwhelming, but you are not alone. A Place At Home offers compassionate senior-focused care. Whether you need daily in-home companion care, assistance navigating with health care options, or help finding a senior living alternative, our professional caregivers in Albuquerque can help. 

Schedule a free consultation today! You can expect an immediate response from our staff about any questions you may have.

November 2020: Recognizing Family Caregivers

November is National Family Caregiver Month. This month, we recognize the importance of those that serve as caregivers for their loved ones. 

In 1994, the Caregiver Action Network dubbed November as the month to recognize and honor those Americans that give their time and energy to care for the ones they love. This year’s theme is “Caregiving Around the Clock,” and for a good reason. 

Of the 53 million adults who identify as a family caregiver, 40% of them live with the person they care for full-time. 

Being a family caregiver is no small feat. Caring for another person can be a full-time job. Given that most Americans require two incomes to support their households, most family caregivers juggle careers, children, and life in general. Whether you’re an adult child caring for a parent, or a spouse caring for your other half, caregiver burnout is a real thing. The pandemic doesn’t make things any easier. The CDC is now recommending that family caregivers be assessed regular mental health assessments in the future. 

Currently, almost 40% of those caring for a loved one are experiencing anxiety and depression directly related to COVID-19.

Some of that anxiety is from the everyday stress of juggling life and caring full-time for another adult. But some of this stress comes from situations we’ve never seen before in our lifetimes. For example, the decision to keep a parent home versus moving them into a senior living community. While the idea of being around one’s peers and having the socialization that communities can offer, the pandemic has many people choosing to keep their loved-ones home, where it’s safer from the risk of infection. For some, their loved ones were living away from home when Covid hit the US. Now, the concern is the isolation that their loved-ones are facing while visitors are no longer allowed into facilities. 

Whatever the situation, family caregivers are facing unparalleled levels of anxiety and stress.

National Family Caregiver Month is an excellent time to remember that you can’t pour from an empty cup. If you’re a family caregiver, you must take care of yourself first, no matter how counterintuitive it may feel in the moments of everyday life. Taking care of yourself looks like getting enough sleep, exercise, and yes, even time away from the person you’re caring for. 

It can be challenging to decide what you can remove from your plate when caring for someone you love. Start with small doses. For example, managing your loved one’s medications can be a daunting task. Have an agency come in and take over this task for you. It takes an hour or less a week, but the weight off of your shoulders is invaluable. You can also hire an agency to provide respite care. Respite can give you the much-needed opportunity to step away and take time for yourself. Having someone you trust to take care of your loved one while you take care of yourself is also invaluable. 

You may feel guilty about taking time for yourself, but having the time to fill your cup will make huge strides in your quality of life. And that will positively impact the quality of time and care that you’re able to provide your parent, spouse, or other family members. If you’re a family caregiver and struggling with caregiver burnout, reach out to us. A Place At Home offers both respite care and medication management, among other services. Our priority is caring for your loved one so that you can care for yourself.  

Self-Care in the Midst of a Pandemic – Essential Now More Than Ever

Self-Care during pandemic

Self-care has become an often-touted buzz word in the last few years, and for good reason. As the world spins around us, we find ourselves taking care of our children, our jobs, our houses, our parents… the list goes on and on. There is one thing that remains the same as our lives evolve: you cannot effectively care for others if you’re not taking care of yourself. In the year 2020, with the world seemingly tilted on its axis due to the global pandemic that is COVID-19, self-care is even more relevant than before.

All of us have found ourselves at the mercy of the uncertainty of what will come next. Indeed, we are in a situation that few, if any of us, have any familiarity with. Now more than ever, we need to practice self-care. This is true if you’re an essential employee, or an essential family member trying to hold your life, and the lives of your loved ones together. Even in the surrealness of today’s world, there are things you can do to find balance.

 Fuel Your Body

With restaurants across the nation closing their dining rooms, and grocery shopping whittled down to a once-weekly affair, it’s easier than ever to ensure your body is getting the nutrients it needs to stay healthy, both physically and mentally. Much of our mental health is connected directly to the physical health of our bodies. It’s easy to slip into a routine of shopping for non-perishables right now. However, ensuring you and your family are consuming lots of fruits and vegetables keeps your immune system strong and your mind balanced.

Staying active is another great way to fuel your body. You don’t need fancy equipment to stay active; get out and explore your neighborhood with your pet, or a hike in nature.

 Fuel Your Mind and Spirit

Even if you’re considered an essential employee, your time outside of work has likely opened up as recreational and social activities have closed down. Use this time wisely. Dive into all the things you might have complained about not having time for in the past. Read books, learn new recipes, write, get back into an old hobby that you haven’t had time for. The activity itself doesn’t matter. What’s important is that you enjoy it, it fills your cup and keeps your thoughts occupied on something other than COVID-19.

 Fuel Your Relationships

Now isn’t the time to get together with your friends – but you can still stay in touch with them. We have the opportunity now to utilize technology and social media for more than scrolling. Start a weekly group chat and do a virtual “happy hour”, or use zoom to play a virtual game of Pictionary.  Reconnect with those living in your household now that you all have time. You’re in the same place, go for walks together. Take advantage of having nowhere to be and cuddle up on the couch for a movie night.

 The world is far different than it was just a couple of months ago, and it can be easy to let the pandemic and all that comes with it consume your thoughts. Instead, we invite you to turn your TV off, put your phone down, take a breath, and take care of yourself in a way that allows you to focus on all the things you have in your life to be grateful for.

If you’re still finding yourself in need of extra help, there are still ways to make every day life easier. Contact us to set up a free consultation.