Are You A Family Caregiver?
Five Tips For How To Cope Mentally And Physically
You’ve probably heard the instructions given to people on board a plane as they are preparing for takeoff, “If the oxygen masks were to deploy, place the mask on yourself first, before assisting others.” This makes sense because if you were unable to think clearly because of lack of oxygen, you certainly would not be able to effectively help someone else with their mask, especially if that person was a small child or elderly person who depended on you to function.
The Special Burden Of Caregiving
As a caregiver, this same advice applies to you. While caregiving certainly has its rewards, being a family caregiver is immensely stressful and can be extremely emotionally as well as physically demanding. If you allow yourself to become exhausted or sick yourself, you won’t have any reserves left over to care for your loved one. But make no mistake, every caregiver knows this is much easier said than done.
Research reveals some alarming facts, including studies that show 20 to 40 percent of all caregivers suffer from depression, and in one survey, three-fourths of the survey respondents stated they found their caregiving responsibilities to be stressful, with more than half of them saying this stress was overwhelming. This stress is especially acute in those caregivers who are caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s or other dementia.
Signs Of Caregiver Stress
Signs that you may be experiencing caregiver stress include feeling constantly worried and overwhelmed, feeling tired all the time, not sleeping well or sleeping too much, frequently experiencing sadness, becoming easily irritated or angry, gaining or losing weight, experiencing frequent headaches, and even abusing alcohol, drugs or prescription medicines.
Many caregivers, just like you, feel caught in a hopeless cycle. Maybe you are simply too overwhelmed by your caregiving responsibilities to even think about self-care. Perhaps you struggle with feelings of guilt when you consider taking any time for yourself or asking anyone to help you. Like many other people in your situation, you may not even want to think about the idea of long-term residential care due to the financial burden that would likely impose.
How To Cope Emotionally And Physically - Five Ways
But there are things you can do to start taking care of yourself. And no, you don’t have to pack your bags and fly to a private island in order to get some relief! Here are five powerfully effective, yet practical tips to help you protect your emotional and physical health while not neglecting your caregiving responsibilities.
One - Make getting adequate sleep a priority.
Getting adequate sleep is one of the most important things you can do for your physical and emotional health. Without proper sleep, it’s difficult to focus and retain new information, plus you will tend to have more negative than positive emotional reactions to situations. Sleep gives your heart a chance to rest, as your blood pressure goes down during sleep and your blood sugar is more even, lessening the chance of developing type 2 diabetes. Sleep even helps your immune system to stay strong and increases its ability to ward off germs. If you don’t get enough sleep, this disrupts the hormones that control appetite, and you will have a tendency to gain weight.
Two - Eat healthy, nutritious foods to fuel your body.
Nutritious, healthy meals do not have to be complicated or take hours to prepare. When you are feeling stressed or overwhelmed, it’s all too easy to grab fast food and it’s even easier to allow that to become an unhealthy habit. Nutrition, just like adequate sleep, has a tremendous impact on your energy level, your mood, and your overall health.
If you enjoy cooking, meal planning and preparation in advance can be a lifesaver, as you don’t have to waste mental energy figuring out what you are going to make several times a day, plus it makes shopping easier as well. If you don’t like to cook, just don’t have the time, or the very thought of it makes you stressed, consider a meal delivery service that can deliver two to three days of meals at a time. Or, you can choose a meal delivery service that is either already fully prepared or a food box that includes all the fresh ingredients and recipes for you to make.
Three - Make time for exercise.
Exercise, just like good nutrition and adequate sleep, can help decrease your stress while increasing your energy. All of these things make you a better caregiver. In addition, exercise reduces feelings of depression, will help you sleep better, and help your emotions stay on an even keel. Some people like to do their exercise first thing in the morning, but research shows that for busy caregivers, breaking up a thirty-minute session into two 15-minute workouts will give you the same positive results. You could ride a stationary bike for 15 minutes in the morning and then go for a 15-minute walk in the afternoon. Aim for 30 minutes total of brisk walking or other moderately intense activity five days a week.
Four - Stay connected socially.
Social isolation is all too common among caregivers, more so now with the restrictions of the pandemic. But without social support, caregivers can flounder. With a strong social support system, your ability to withstand difficulties increases. These connections are every bit as important as nutrition, sleep, and exercise but many caregivers neglect this area of their lives out of a sense of duty or because they feel guilty taking time for themselves.
As a caregiver, you will always be faced with multiple demands. This is why you should schedule in social time at least once a week for yourself, with the promise to yourself you won’t cancel unless there is a real emergency on your hands. If you can’t get out for lunch, coffee or a walk in the park with a friend, then schedule in regular phone calls or virtual meetings via your computer to stay connected.
Five - Accept help.
Many caregivers have a hard time reaching out for help to other family members or close friends. Some may feel they have to handle everything themselves as no one knows their loved one like they do. Others don’t want to be a burden to other people and are hesitant to ask for assistance. And some caregivers just don’t have people around them they could ask for help even if they wanted to do so.
But you are only one person and you cannot possibly do everything, no matter how competent, how emotionally strong or how much you love your family member. Regardless of your situation, you are a human being with your own needs and this includes giving yourself permission to get help. At Home Instead we understand the energy and commitment it takes to be a caregiver and we applaud you.
We also know that through our services, we can help to relieve some of the burdens that all caregivers shoulder every day. We offer a wide variety of services, which can be tailored to fit your unique needs, ranging from just a few hours a day of assistance to 24 hours, seven days a week. Home Instead also offers respite care for a week or two at a time, while you take a much-needed and well-deserved break.
Just click here to learn more about our company and our services. Our staff would be delighted to speak with you about your needs. Home Instead Hammersmith & Chiswick is located at 186 Sutton Ct Rd, Chiswick, London W4 3HR. You can ring us at 020 8022 3276 or contact us via email at [email protected]
We look forward to speaking with you and learning more about how we can help you!