When the season comes to care for our loved ones, we meet the challenge whole-heartedly. However, all too quickly like can become swamped. Soon you may feel your own personal life starting to slip away. Feeling burnt out and stressed is normal and should be expected! While some life changes will need to happen, you must still maintain a baseline of self-care. Below are some tips on how to care for yourself when you are caring for an aging adult in your life.
There are an estimated 43 million Americans who act as unpaid care-givers who also fight feelings of caregiver fatigue and strain. Being overwhelmed and being in need of support is commonplace for many in your community. You most likely have people in your life that are ready to support you. Using them will increase your energy as you prevent caregiver burnout. Below we will unpack some ways to create support networks, how to identify them and utilize them well. The first step in self-care is prioritizing it, and that will require saying yes to support from other individuals and places.
It is important to divide up your care-taking responsibilities, as much as you are able, among your natural supports and family. While you might lead much of the care, other supports can still help. Not only will this help lessen the load on your caregiver plate, but also will allow your family to be involved in your loved one’s aging journey. Multigenerational care has been shown to be beneficial for everyone in a family unit, especially the youngest and eldest generations. Here are some tips on how to share the caregiving load with your family.
Create at-home schedules or calendars where all family members fill in on house-chores. Include simple tasks they can do for grandma or grandpa or errands that they can complete to give you a break. Some families even use a dry-erase caretaker calendar in their kitchen so that everyone has access to key caretaking information and opportunities.
Plan intentionally visits where out-of-town siblings or other family members can come to give you rest. The more you can plan these visits in advance with your family network, the more you can benefit and focus on self-care in this time. While it might be tempting to use this time-off to catch up on your own chores and tasks, instead, be intentional with focusing on replenishing your own energy. Whether it is planning your own vacation at this time or indulging in a stay-cation, use this time to well for you.
Let a partner, spouse, or friends treat you to indulgences. Often, in a caretaker role we can focus on the needs of others so long that we deny nice moments for ourselves because they feel selfish or unnecessary. However, they are so important as you cope with your caregiving expectations. So, if your spouse or loved one offers a night off, a spa day, to bring in food, say yes without guilt!
Clarify who your network is and communicate your needs and expectations to everyone. Sharp communication is key so you and your family can be on the same page, understands what is expected, and feels empowered to help. The more honest and clear you can be with your expectations and needs for help, the more you can avoid burnout and caregiver stress.
Too often we have an attitude of “I can do it myself” which can burn you out too fast as you try to care for your aging adult. When people offer help, whether practical or emotional, consider accepting it. Let others take on smaller tasks that can be delegated. Some of those tasks could include medication pick-ups, food drop offs, shopping errands, check-in phone calls, and more. Studies show that often emotional support can be just as helpful as practical help to prevent burnout. It is all too easy brush it off when someone asks how you are doing. But, actually opening up and sharing your caregiving experience with someone you trust is also a way to receive support from others and will lessen your stress.
While your personal network may offer you plenty of support you may find that sometimes outside assistance could be of benefit. From online community support groups to care-giver focused assistance from government programs, there is support out there in people and places you maybe have not even met yet. Each program varies from federal, to state, to local programs, which can be overwhelming. However, most counties and major cities have individuals who are there to help you as you navigate these systems.
As your loved one leans more on you for their needs, it is all too easy to become burnt out if you do not create boundaries for yourself. Be prepared to say “no” to things that can wait. Outline and clearly communicate what hours you will be present and what times you will unavailable unless there is an emergency. Decide which weekly tasks require your attention and which ones can be delegated to a family member or outside help, even if your instinct is to “just do it yourself.” The more you can create a system of boundaries the more energy you are giving yourself long-term for loving your aging adult well.
One method to support your personal boundaries is identifying each week a variety of ways you will care for yourself. Caring for yourself has layers. We suggest that you consider self-care to include focusing on care for the body, the mind and the soul. All of that together make up your self-care, not just one or two of them. It is up to you how you want to carve out your schedule for self-care. Maybe you want to try to find 10 minutes every day for each of those areas. Or maybe you want to separate them out, perhaps focusing each day on a different part of your self-care. However, you want to organize your time, be sure to weight all of these areas equally and give your mind, body, and soul equal opportunities to rest and recharge each week.
Movement or exercise can be a hard routine to establish in the easiest of times, so of course it can be an added challenge for a busier care-givers schedule. A majority of Americans struggle to stick a work-out plan and it can seem almost impossible when you are a stressed caregiver. However, it has been shown that 2-3 hours a week of physical activity or movement can greatly reduce stress and burn-out. And what is important to highlight is that movement for your body does not have to be an aggressive, strict plan. Instead of focusing on “exercise” focus on ways to move your body consistently and creatively each week. Find what type of movement speaks to you and create a weekly rhythm for it. Perhaps it can even creatively include your loved one as well!
Find time each day to set aside to quiet your own mind, to moderate your own breathing and to create some space for you. Consider breathing and relaxation techniques that work for you and include them in your daily schedule. Breathwork may seem like a strange topic to some. However, it has been proven to reduce stress, increase cardiovascular health, and calm your mind. Making space for even 10 minutes to sit and breathe, meditate, or to close your eyes will give you the break you need but may not have noticed.
If quieting your mind or focusing your breath is an intimidating topic, thankfully there are lots of ways to be assisted through it. There are dozens of applications for your smartphone that guide you through some of these techniques. Also, there are thousands of videos online for simple guided meditation. Research and try out some of these assisting programs if you want some help in this area.
Loneliness can become all too real if you begin sacrificing your social time repeatedly. However, this can be severely harmful to your long-term overall health. Be sure to still prioritize a way to connect with others. It may need to be creatively different than your usual previous “hangouts.” However, connecting with your own circle regularly is key in your long-term emotional health. Don’t forget your own hobbies and interests. The time you carve out for your soul needs to be something that recharges you. If you love reading, listening to music, or playing a game make time for it. Self-care does not have to be an extra burden to shove into your schedule, but rather something you can creatively plan for and benefit greatly from.
A common question is “how much can you get paid for caring for elderly parents?” And it is fair question considering that family caregivers usually go underpaid or unpaid. The answer is complicated, and largely depends on your loved one’s specific experience and the different state and federal programs available. Let’s unpack some financial assistance options!
In an effort to encourage aging in place, there are a handful of programs available to veterans that allow them financial assistance and even stipends for at home family care givers. These various programs are available through your local VA office or online portal. If your loved one is not a veteran, there are still a few programs available through their Medicaid assistance.
Along with various medical financial assistance benefits, Medicaid also has a few cash and counseling programs that, for those eligible, can help pay for at-home caregivers including family members. Contact your local Medicaid office or portal for more information and eligibility requirements.
Generally, SSI or SSDI will not pay directly for private caregiving except for a few specific situations. However, there are other benefits available through your Social Security administration. Often if a loved one qualifies for SSI or SSDI, they also will qualify for other financial assistance programs, such as Medicaid, local assistance programs, and more. If your loved one qualifies for assistance though Social Security, it is encouraged to plan out their financial assistance well for private care giving. Connect next with your local office for more assistance programs and information.
anWe at Beverly’s Daughter want to care for YOU as you care for others. Caregiver burnout and stress is real, and we understand that. However, we know the benefits that can come with mindful, creative self-care. Those benefits will increase your quality of life as well as let you show up as your best self for your loved one. Every self-care journey is unique, and we would love to connect with you on yours. We are ready to jump in and support your self-care in this season of love and sacrifice.
Have any questions? Want to leave a comment? Looking for more resources? Continue the conversation below!
Self-Care is Caring
While taking time away may be the last thing on your mind, it is important on your self-care journey. Regular breaks, whether they are weekend stay-cations or yearly faraway getaways, will allow you to create longevity in your caregiving journey. It may take some planning and work, but reasonable and prepared time away will benefit you and your loved one’s relationship.
You and your loved one can both experience care
Your loved one can still be well cared for, even when you’re caring for yourself. There are resources, tips, and ideas on how to commit to your self-care journey still while loving your aging adult well. At Beverly’s Daughter, we are here to help you create a plan for care and find creative solutions for you both.
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