Caring for a family member is a noble but stressful position. Family caregivers often get so caught up in the day-to-day routine of providing care to their loved one that they forget to pay attention to their own needs. By being aware of the common challenges faced by family caregivers, a person caring for a love one can take steps to prevent a negative impact on their quality of life, and the quality of care they provide.
Common Caregiver Challenges
Sleep, or lack of it
Getting plenty of sleep is essential to your overall health, but caring for your loved one is a 24 hour job. In addition, the stress of providing care may affect the quality of the sleep you do get. How can you cope? If your loved one takes naps during the day, try to nap at the same time. You may feel like you need to get things done, but taking care of yourself is number one on the list! Also, try to dedicate bedtime to preparing for sleep. Turn off the tv, tablets, and phones, dim the lights, and spend some quiet time before turning in for the night.
Feelings of isolation
When you are unable to leave your loved one alone, getting out of the house to spend time with friends, or pursue hobbies may seem impossible. It may require some planning, but try joining activities that you and your loved one can do together. Libraries are a valuable source of programming and are ADA accessible. Look online to see if there are caregiver support groups in your area that organize activities.
Weight loss or gain
Ensuring that your loved one is getting proper nutrition is one of your priorities, but you need the same! Healthy, nutrient dense meals are essential to maintaining your health so you can continue to provide care. Plan your menus a week at a time, and if having enough time to food shop is a problem consider a home delivery service.
Managing Common Caregiver Challenges
If these challenges aren't addressed, caregivers may experience extreme stress or caregiver burnout. However, many of these frustrations or challenges can be managed. Here are some techniques to help!
Avoid caregiver burnout
If you are feeling stressed or burned out, ask friends, family members, or even church members to provide short periods of care to alleviate some of the strain. Take time to pursue a hobby or have lunch with a friend. Too many caregivers refuse help because they do not want to share the burden. Unfortunately, if a caregiver does not ask for help, then others will not realize the caregiver needed help until it’s too late.
When caring for your family member, watch funny movies, give yourself permission to laugh at the absurdities, and reminisce about joyful family moments. If you have them, pull out the old family videos or slideshows and enjoy sharing those precious moments.
If you have downtime or need a distraction, learn something you always thought about pursuing such as learning how to speak French or finally start writing that book you always dreamed of publishing. Think about what you’ve wanted to learn or overcome and challenge yourself.
Have you noticed patterns of just going about your caregiver activities and forgetting that this is a person? Even if the person cannot talk, you can still make eye contact, sit with them, hold their hand, talk in a reassuring voice, and really connect with them. This will relieve anxiety and stress for both of you because connection makes us feel alive and valuable.
As a caregiver, you usually keep to a routine. Unfortunately, caregivers do not have scheduled lunch breaks like a typical worker. Yet, their duties are just as, if not more, demanding. When you see an opening, take downtime. Give yourself permission to sit down, breath deeply, and find your center. Discover what helps you relax, perhaps it’s music, reading, or simply quiet time. Regardless, find the technique that works and do not compromise on taking the needed break.
Get some exercise
According to Mayo Clinic, exercise can improve your mood and increase your energy level as well. With a better outlook and more energy, you'll be in a better position to take care of yourself and your loved one into the future. Perhaps you can even exercise with your loved one.
At Caring Senior Service we are always ready to help seniors and their families by providing professional advice and services. To learn more about common challenges faced by caregivers, check out our eBook on the true cost of caregiving.