11 de-stressing tips for family caregivers
By Joel Stoddart
As dedicated home health care professionals, our top priority is to provide compassionate and personalized care for our clients, making sure they can live comfortably and safely in their own homes. However, we also work hard to help the selfless family members, adult children and community members who are involved in caring for their loved ones. All too often, we observe these generous people experiencing ‘caregiver fatigue’—a sense of being completely overwhelmed by their caregiving commitments.
Here are 11 strategies you can suggest to help them increase energy, reduce tension and give their loved ones the absolute best.
1) Look for help outside the home: Church groups and social groups are often willing to help out; they just need to know how. Do not be afraid to ask—there have never been more retirees looking for ways to contribute to the health of their communities. A break of as little as one or two hours per week could change your world.
2) Talk it out: Commiserating can be great therapy for caregivers. There are many people experiencing your same challenges—find them and talk to them. Sometimes all a caregiver needs is to know they are not alone.
3) Exercise: No time for the gym? Even a 10-minute de-stressing walk can help. A breath of fresh air goes a long way.
4) Prioritize and pick your battles: Remember that you are only one person and you cannot do it all. Go easy on yourself, set priorities and do not trick yourself into thinking you can do everything.
5) Consider how technology can help: There has never been a better time to let technology help you manage family care. GPS, remote monitoring systems and web-based software can do amazing things these days.
6) Keep ‘to-do’ lists: This is good advice for anybody, but particularly so for time-strapped family caregivers. Follow each item on your list with a few notes, such as (a) Who can help me with this? (b) What is my deadline? and (c) What would happen if I did not do this? You may be surprised by how many items on your to-do list are not really essential.
7) Learn to say no: One of the most empowering words in the English language. By saying no more often (to requests for help from friends or loved ones, or even to social outings you do not have time for), you can take better control of your time and free yourself from carrying too much on your own.
8) Laugh at yourself: Do not be afraid to laugh out loud at the caregiving situation you are in (even if it might seem inappropriate), or how you are handling it. Laughter is the best medicine.
9) Cook in bulk: If part of your role as a caregiver includes meals, be sure to consider making lots of food at once and freezing the leftovers. Slow cookers are great for preparing soups, chilis and casseroles.
10) Reward yourself: Declare to yourself that you have worked hard and set a reward system. The reward can be big (a vacation) or small (some chocolate or a foot massage)—but whatever it is, continue to remind yourself that you have earned it!
11) Let go of the things you cannot control: As a family caregiver, you can only do so much. Take the time to recognize what you cannot control (e.g., that a family member has Alzheimer’s) and focus only on what you can control (e.g., providing them with comfort and care).
Adapted with permission from careforce.ca.
Joel Stoddart is the Business Development Manager for
Careforce Health Services. He lives in New Minas, Nova Scotia.