Caregiver burnout is very real. Fully 46% of caregivers suffer from clinical depression. If you are a caregiver, it is important that you pay attention to your emotional health. If you are to care for a loved one for the long term, you must remain emotionally healthy to do so. Here are three practical ways to invest in your emotional health and well-being. They don’t cost money, and they can be integrated into your daily life and caregiving schedule.
1. Collect good friends: You need people. Human beings are social “animals,” and we are not meant to live in a solitary manner. In fact, psychotherapy studies repeatedly show that people who have a lot of social support are happier. You may not have time to have dinner with friends, but you can call them, text them and swap photos on Snapchat, Instagram or other social media apps. Staying connected is the most important thing. Even if you have moved to be closer to your loved one, social media can help you stay in close touch with friends.
If you are having a bad day, or a difficult time with a loved one who suffers from dementia, a quick text from a friend can lift your spirits. Without that close connection, you have no way to feed your spirits, something that is essential to remaining a healthy, upbeat caregiver.
Talk to your friends. Psychologists say that we each need to check our thoughts with other people, at the very least to air them and get them out of our heads. Very often a problem shared is less burdensome.
2. Get Fit: On the face of it, a suggestion to get fit seems like yet another demand on your time. Exercise is important, lifts your mood, lowers blood pressure, fights depression and enhances the quality of life. Exercising doesn’t mean you have to run a marathon or swim ten laps. It means that if you can get out of the house for a brisk walk around the block, you will feel better. If you can attend a yoga class at the senior center while your loved one is there, it improves your sense of well-being. Caregiving is arduous and exhausting, even in the best of circumstances. The fresh oxygen in your blood and brain from exercising will help you to be the interactive, engaged caregiver you want to be. Your emotional health will benefit from good physical health. Get enough sleep, eat regular, well-balanced meals and take time for relaxation as well.
3. Protect Yourself from “Energy Vampires”: Every family has them - the “Drama Queen,” the "Sob Sister,” and the “Constant Talker”. Their personalities are exhausting, and they seem to enjoy creating a complicated dynamic. They may upset the loved one you are caring for when they visit and ignore behavioral boundaries. It is up to you to establish the construct within which these outsize characters can visit and interact with you and your loved one. It is in the best interest of your loved one to maintain a calm, healing environment. When the disruptive personality visits, restrict the length of the visit and carefully monitor the conversation. If they slip into discussing an overly dramatic version of reality or their current sob story you can calmly yet firmly redirect or end the conversation. Your priority is to care for your loved one and yourself. Of course, this is difficult and may cause disruption in the family dynamic. However, those who have the best interests of the aging family member at heart will want to do what is best for them.
Being a caregiver is an important yet grueling role. However, you can provide great care over the long term if you also care for yourself. Home Care Assistance can help by giving you a break from caregiving responsibilities. Our flexible caregiver schedules can give you time to have coffee with a friend or go to a favorite movie. While you rest, your loved one will receive highly trained compassionate and knowledgeable care. Our priority is to work closely with your family to make sure all your needs are met, and the highest standard of care is maintained throughout our service to you and your loved one.