5 Tips for Full-Time Caregivers

5 Tips for Full-Time Caregivers

Caregiving is the basic cornerstone of any nurse’s job. In the routine activity of medical care and procedures, the nurse always has the patient in mind and is looking out for the comfort, well being, and health of anyone being cared for.

Being a full-time caregiver can be emotionally draining as a profession, but when nurses are also caregivers at home, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. And nurses are known for always taking care of others, sometimes to their own detriment. When a family member or friend is ill and you’re providing a lot of their care, it’s hard to find a balance so you don’t get burned out.

It’s also important to remember you aren’t alone if you feel the strain. Caregiving in the U.S. 2015, a recent study by the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP, shows 59 percent of caregivers work at least part-time and 38 percent of caregivers report high stress levels.

If you’re in that spot of caring for people at work and at home, here are a few tips to make sure you don’t get burned out.

1. Take Care of Yourself

This is easier said than done, but it’s the top advice for a reason. If you let your own health slide, you won’t be able to take care of anyone. Make sure you keep up with any health conditions or concerns you have. If you have to postpone an appointment with a physician or a specialist, reschedule it right away. Don’t let your own health get lost in the shuffle.

2. Find a Minute or Two to Breathe

Deep breathing every day, the kind that’s from your belly and that’s slow and steady, will relax your body and mind. Luckily, you don’t need a small quiet place to breathe deeply (although if you can do that, go for it!). You can do deep breathing in the car, in bed before you go to sleep, on the couch while you’re watching TV or reading, or even while you’re waiting for lunch to heat up. Deep breathing helps slow everything down, including health wreckers like anxiety.

3. Time for You

Let’s get real – when you’re working and taking care of someone at home, you are pretty unlikely to take time for yourself. You don’t feel like you have time, and you might even feel like if you do have five extra minutes, you should make a phone call or tackle that sinkful of dishes. But you really need to carve out just a few minutes of peace for yourself every day. Sure, a long bath would be nice, but maybe listening to uplifting music while you’re in the car can be a mood boost. Can’t read a whole book? Just flip through a magazine you love. Find something that makes you feel good and do it – every single day. The dishes will always be there and they can wait.

4. Ask for or Hire Help

The truth is, no one is going to give you time unless you ask for it. You either have to ask friends and family for a respite break or you need to hire help to get it. Even if you think it’s obvious, people around you might not realize how badly you need an afternoon off unless you tell them. If your loved one needs medical care, work with the medical team to find someone who can provide respite care. Ask about what kind of care is available at a low cost or no cost based on your loved one’s medical needs. And don’t be guilted into not getting help. Your loved one may not like having other people provide care, but if you ever truly can’t be there, they need to at least be familiar with the experience (even if they don’t like it).

5. Recognize Your Limits

As disappointing as it is, you are the person in charge of taking care of you. It would be lovely if someone would sweep in for the day to take care of you, the caregiver, who really could use some extra special treatment. But the chances of that happening aren’t very high. So it’s up to you to take care of yourself, to be good to yourself, and to recognize when you need a break. If you can find ways to do that, you will be a much better caregiver than one who is exhausted, unhealthy, and worn out. You deserve your own care.

4 Steps to Ease Your Caregiving Stress

4 Steps to Ease Your Caregiving Stress

With April officially designated as Stress Awareness Month, this is a great time to take a hard look at making your life a little easier.

According to statistics provided by the Family Caregiver Alliance, 65.7 million caregivers (29 percent of the adult population) provide care to someone who is disabled or has an illness. With nearly one in three Americans providing some kind of care, caregiving is at the forefront of many families, but it’s also a major source of stress for them.

No matter how much you enjoy taking care of your family, the responsibilities that come with it can be daunting and draining. One of the top things caregivers need to remember is if you don’t take care of yourself, no one else will. And if you start experiencing physical or emotional effects from being stretched too thin, you won’t be as effective in your caregiving duties as you want.

But families don’t raise themselves and aging relatives need your help. There’s still a job to hold down and dinner to cook. How can you strike a balance?

1. Get Help

Caregiving is not meant to be a solo job. If you try to do it all on your own, you’ll risk some of the most common and debilitating hazards of caregiving – depression, anxiety, exhaustion, loneliness, isolation, and even resentment for all you have to do. If you can afford hired help, do that. If you can’t, there are many groups and people who can help you out. Look to your church, community groups, or your local Council on Aging for resources.

2. Find Out About Respite Care

If you find yourself taking care of your mom 24/7 while she recovers from an illness or major surgery, you’ll quickly find out that being “on” all the time is not good for you. Respite care, when someone else takes over your caregiving duties so you can have time to attend to your own personal needs – from catching up with a friend to that doctor’s appointment you keep putting off – is vital to the caregiver’s well-being. If you think respite care is a luxury, you need to rethink respite care. Having some time off is not something you should ever feel guilty about and finding a capable person to take over for a little while will help you feel more energized and less drained.

3. Be as Organized as Possible

One reason so many caregivers are reluctant to step back, even when they know they need it, is because they know all the details of the care being given. Trying to explain all the medications, personality quirks, and household duties to someone else is time consuming, so you figure you might as well just do it yourself. But being organized, by entering all those details into a simple notebook, for instance, makes it easier to step back if you need to, but will also make it possible for you to step back if you have to. If you fall and break your ankle and no one else knows the caregiving routine or the next doctor’s appointment, the transition will be rocky for both you and your loved one.

4. Be Nice to Yourself

No, this isn’t about going out for a day at the spa. If you can do that, you should, but many caregivers just want to sit down for two minutes. Being nice to yourself means just that – treat yourself (with your flaws, disappointments, and joys alike) as you would treat a friend. Pat yourself on the back when you get through the day and things go great. But don’t dwell on the days when everything goes wrong. You’re only one person, and you’re doing the best you can. Find the good where you can. Did you forget to thaw the chicken for dinner? Your family will be fine with a frozen pizza for one night. Did your dad miss his trip to the senior center because work called unexpectedly on your day off? It’s okay. He might be disappointed, but he will get to the next one. Honor your efforts and be gentle when things go wrong.

Finding a balance is a struggle for all caregivers. But if you find the help you need, accept that you can’t do it all, and treat yourself gently, your caregiving journey will be much smoother.