Being a caregiver for an elderly family member or loved one is difficult job – especially if you also have young children at home. If you are a caregiver, you likely spend hours each day making sure your loved one is safe and comfortable. You may forego social outings with friends to tend to your loved one’s needs. Any time for yourself is probably a rare luxury.
In short, you – like many caregivers in Georgia – put the needs of your family and your elderly loved one ahead of your own.
While caring for an elderly parent or other family member brings great joy and fulfillment to many people, it can take a toll both physically and mentally. Many caregivers suffer from a lack of sleep, exhaustion and sometimes depression. Taking time to focus on yourself can help ensure that your needs are met, so that you are able to continue meeting the needs of your loved ones.
Here are a few tips to help you focus on your own well-being:
1. Identify what is standing in your way. Take a moment to understand what is preventing you from devoting time to care for yourself. Is it your way of thinking? Do you have a hard time letting others help? Do you feel guilty when you take your focus off of your elderly loved one? Any of these feelings and others can stand in the way of self care. Simply recognizing that they exist can help you determine how to address them.
2. Find solutions. Now that you know what is keeping you from caring for yourself, think about some possible solutions. Maybe you will ask a sibling to help out once or twice a week. Maybe you will try to change your perspective that only you are able to care for your elderly parent or loved one. If you’re not sure what to do, consider asking trusted friends and family members for advice.
3. Manage your stress effectively. Stress manifests itself differently in different people. For some, it may cause fatigue, others may experience irritability or physical ailments like headaches and muscle aches. As you look for ways to manage your stress, consider what is causing it. Then, recognize what you can change and what you cannot. You can’t change the attitude or condition of the person you care for, but maybe you can change your routine enough to give you a little free time.
4. Establish goals – even small ones. Goals give you something to work toward. Without them, it is easy to get stuck in a rut. Even small goals can help you start moving in the right direction. For example, one goal might be to focus more on your own health. A good place to start would be scheduling a physical with your doctor. After talking to your doctor, you may come up with more ways to achieve your goal that can be worked into your schedule.
5. Make your physical health a priority. One of the best things you can do for your overall health is to be active. Of course, being a caregiver can involve some physical activity, but adding in a little more can go a long way toward improving your overall health and lowering your stress levels, making you a more effective caregiver in the long run.
6. Ask for help and allow yourself to receive it. When every minute of your day is consumed by caring for your children and your elderly loved one, finding help can give you the break you need to recharge and pursue your goals. Help could come in the form of a family member who can take over a few afternoons a week. It could also mean considering other options for your loved one, including hiring in-home assistance or moving them to an assisted living facility.
If you are leaning toward this option, it may be worthwhile to speak with an elder law attorney. An attorney can help you determine your care options as well as how to pay for them while protecting your assets.