Guest blogger, Harry Cline, wrote this important article. It's important because most new caregivers tend to get so caught up in giving care to another, that they neglect taking care of themselves. Harry's new book, The A-Z Home Care Handbook: Health Management How-Tos for Senior Caregivers offers tips and how-tos to help guide you through the health management tasks caregivers are most commonly responsible for performing. Please make sure you visit his website: www.newcaregiver.org. Harry has been a caregiver for his elderly uncle and understands what a daunting task caregiving can be for a new caregiver.
Why Self-Care is Necessary for New Caregivers
We all like to care for others, but we usually can do so and still have time for ourselves. If you’ve recently become a caregiver, you know finding that time can be more difficult than ever. But taking time for self-care is even more critical for caregivers. Here are five reasons you need to take time to rest and recover from your responsibilities.
You Have to Take Care of Yourself to Take Care of Others
Your loved one is depending on you for their care. Too often, caregivers don’t make their own health a priority, which can lead to life-threatening illness. When you are responsible for someone else’s well-being, not taking care of yourself can mean taking away the only person who can give them the care they need. Make time to schedule your own checkups and care for your own physical health and emotional well-being.
Caregiving Can Impact Your Mental Health
Being a caregiver and working all hours of the day can leave you feeling overwhelmed and isolated. It’s all too easy for depression, anxiety and stress to creep into your life. To prevent depression, it’s important to start reaching out to others now, as soon as you take up your new responsibilities. Seek solace in local support groups or make time to connect with other family members and friends. It’s also crucial to find ways to deal with the added stress. Self-medicating with drugs or alcohol is not the answer and will only make you feel worse and unable to care for your loved one. You may also think about making an appointment to talk to a licensed counselor. A professional can provide the support you need to stay strong as a caregiver.
Providing Care Can Take a Toll on Your Physical Strength
Getting exercise is likely the last of your priorities right now. But taking care of someone else often requires physical strength. You may need to lift things and provide physical support throughout the day, and working out can help you prevent injury and fatigue and relieve stress. Get out for a few brisk walks during the day and set aside some time for strength training. If you can’t get to the gym, you can use items around the house or set up a home gym to stay fit without taking too much time out of your schedule. To protect your joints and keep your muscles loose, it may also be a good idea to start a simple yoga practice.
Help Can Make a Big Difference
You know you can provide the most loving care, but there still may be times when you need help. Many caregivers find it necessary to hire a home health care worker to assist with the medical needs of their loved one, especially in the beginning. This assistant can show you how to carry out crucial care, such as giving injections or moving your loved one from place to place safely. If you can afford to keep them on, having someone to help with care can take a lot of pressure off you and allow for more time to take care of yourself. If this is not an option, think about getting help with other tasks, such as cleaning and pet care. Consider hiring a dog walker or housekeeping service in your area.
This May Be the Toughest Job You’ve Ever Had
You may be telling yourself that this is simply your duty as a friend or family member, but being a caregiver isn’t always that simple. No matter how much you love someone, being there for them every single hour of every single day can be a struggle. Watching them suffer from illness or injury, especially a terminal illness, can also be brutal. This is why self-care is so important. You need self-care to stay strong, physically, mentally and emotionally.
You’re giving so much of yourself to others. So know that you deserve and need time for yourself. Your new responsibilities can be overwhelming, so you have to be willing to take some time away, take some time to breath and take some time to truly take care of yourself as you take care of others.
I cared for Mom for seven years and learned so much from my experiences with her and Alzheimer's.