There is no way to prepare in advance for being a caregiver for a family member with a serious illness. It’s simply not a role that we anticipate taking on. Unfortunately, severe illnesses and disabilities do happen. And the responsibilities that come with them are often difficult and overwhelming.
All too often, with a long term illness, the caregiver experiences “caregiver burnout”. This is a mental and physical exhaustion brought on when caregivers don’t get adequate help and support or try to do more than they’re able to do. This can lead to depression, anxiety or illness.
In order to prevent this, it is vital for caregivers to take care of themselves first.
Being a caregiver isn’t something that comes naturally for most people. Feelings of guilt, anxiety and even resentment or anger are common and completely normal. It’s important to talk about these emotions with a trusted family member, friend or therapist. Holding them inside will only make them more difficult to manage. It may also help to find an outlet for your feelings.
Having a hobby such as gardening, knitting or exercise will provide a distraction from your caretaking responsibilities. Even as little as 30 minutes a day may be enough to give you the respite you need.Taking care of yourself physically cannot be stressed enough either. Eating well, getting enough sleep and exercise will all ensure that you are well enough to be there for your loved one.
When help is offered, say yes! Whether it’s a chance to get out for a few hours,food, or help with housework, don’t be shy about accepting (or asking for) assistance. But don’t be afraid to say no, as well. During this difficult time, you shouldn’t feel pressured to take on outside duties. This is a time to focus on the well-being of your family and yourself.
Staying organized can go along way in managing caregiver stress. Taking the time to set up a planner to manage doctor’s appointments, keeping medication organized and keeping regularly used items neatly nearby makes those never-ending tasks that much simpler.
When a loved is so ill, thinking about our own well-being can feel selfish. In truth, it’s the farthest thing from it. In order to provide the best possible care for those we love, we must make sure that we are healthy ourselves, both physically and mentally. By taking steps to safeguard your health, you are preventing burnout for yourself and making sure that you are at your best to provide the care and support your loved one needs.