When you make the decision to care for a family member, or take on the bulk of the responsibility, it can often feel like you are on a roller coaster of emotions. There is stress, love, anxiety, joy, and purpose along with a deeper bond that is formed when you choose to become a family caregiver. It is also common though, to neglect your own health in favor of caring for your loved ones. So, it becomes very important to find a way to balance our own needs with those of our loved ones so we can continue to provide care. Keep reading to learn more about how you can maintain and even improve your physical health, mental health, and relationships while you are caregiving.
Balance Your Physical Health
Did you know that long periods of stress can be very harmful to your health? Research has shown that the chemicals our body uses during a stressful situation can be damaging to our physical health over time. If you are living near or with your loved one, then chances are you don’t have a lot of ways to escape from the stress in your life. This is especially true if you and your loved one lack community support, leaving you feeling isolated. And if you and your loved one are limited financially, it can also feel as if you don’t have any choices or ways to take a break.
Since the demands of caregiving increase over time, the signs of health deterioration often sneak up on caregivers. This is why it is important to know the signs that your physical health may be at risk. This can include feeling fatigued, having strange sleeping patterns, gaining or losing weight, frequent headaches, body pain, or other physical symptoms. Something else that may signify a much needed trip to the doctor is feeling sick more often.
In order to find balance, family caregivers should ensure that they are:
- Eating On Schedule – even if you have to set an alarm, you should make sure that you’re eating a well-balanced breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Many caregivers skip meals, but if you make sure you’re eating 3 square meals a day, then you’ll have a stronger immune system, and more energy to make it through the day.
- Staying Strong – Caregiving may require the use of new muscles, but nothing replaces getting out of the house, into nature, and walking. Even joining an exercise class can help, because the socialization will help you clear your head. Staying strong and active will keep you refreshed and keep you healthy.
- Keeping Appointments – It can be hard to find time to visit a physician when you are always at the doctor’s office with your loved one, but it should be a priority. At a minimum, make sure you’re getting all of your checkups each year.
- Seeking Respite Care – Caregivers NEED breaks. If you don’t have enough family, community, or neighbors to help, then it is important to seek out respite care. You can seek out respite care, and find professionals who can help, from a few hours a week, to as much time as you need. These professionals become part of your care network and are there to help support you and your spouse. You aren’t alone.
Balance Your Mental Focus
As we have previously stated, there are many emotions involved in caregiving. This means that it is important to balance our mental health when we are providing care to others. The first step in this process is accepting that every feeling we have is normal. This can include frustration, fatigue, anger, guilt, love, and so much more. Next, we should prioritize our mental support, which means finding resources, groups, and other caregivers in your community who you can use as a sounding board of support. Finally, it is important to ensure that you have time to yourself, away from the responsibilities of caregiving by getting out, being social, and finding other individuals to connect with. Caregiving can’t be your only purpose. Remember that professional mental health experts can help you as well, because sometimes you simply need to hear someone else tell you that it is okay to feel however you are feeling.
Balance Your Relationships
Often, when we take on the role of family caregiver, our relationships with others start to slide. It is important to maintain the connections you have with others even while you strengthen your relationship with your loved one. Sometimes this means ensuring that you have one-on-one time with the other individuals in your life who are important to you. You can set up specific times to spend with them or invite them to join you in other activities so that you aren’t neglecting those people. Even a 15-minute coffee break with a loved one can mean so much.
Remember that you can also find assistance through local caregiver programs such as those provided by Homewatch CareGivers of Sterling. Our team is always available to provide information, answer questions, and give you resources. It is always a privilege to provide our clients with compassionate and professional assistance. Don’t hesitate to contact us today if you have more questions or keep browsing our website for more information.