Being the primary caregiver for a loved one comes with many challenges. A new caregiver may have to take on previously unfamiliar tasks such as administering medication, bathing, dressing, feeding and preparing meals, and more. But the most difficult challenge is often remembering to take care of oneself.
It’s commonplace for caregivers to neglect their own health and well-being and put their own needs on the back-burner. This can lead to emotional exhaustion, depression and illness. To be an effective caregiver, you need to do your best to stay healthy or risk becoming a second victim of the disease that afflicts your family member.
Some common issues that caregivers experience include:
- Time management: Struggling to fit in all the additional daily responsibilities such as grocery shopping, laundry, picking up prescriptions, transportation to and from doctors’ appointment, etc.
- Stress: Feeling overwhelmed or burdened by the daily challenges.
- Isolation: Caregivers may feel alone in their responsibilities and isolated from friends and believe that they must take on all the tasks associated with caregiving solo.
- Financial obligations: Caregivers may be required to purchase supplies or incur costs above and beyond their allotted budget.
- Guilt: Caregivers report feeling guilty when taking time for themselves or for expressing anger or frustration at their situation.
Having these feelings is often unavoidable, but there are steps that you can take to ensure that you stay healthy, happy and calm while caring for a loved one. Some solutions include:
- Ask for help and know your limits: Don’t be afraid to reach out to your support system when you’re feeling overwhelmed. Caring for a loved one can be an emotional rollercoaster. If you’re in over your head, ask someone for help. If someone offers to help, accept it.
- Attend to your own health care needs: When caring for someone else, it’s easy to ignore your own ailments. It’s important for you to be at your best in order for you to be an effective caregiver. Don’t neglect annual physicals or checkups. Make time for you.
- Investigate available resources: Take advantage of resources that are out there. Do your homework and find out if you qualify for assistance. Contact the Aging Institute of UPMC Senior Services and the University of Pittsburgh at 1-866-430-8742 (toll free) or visit Aging.UPMC.com to get connected to available resources for caregivers.
- Join a support group: Know that there are people out there who share your feelings. It’s helpful to talk about your concerns with others and to look for advice and comfort.
- Get proper rest and nutrition: Get lots of sleep and eat the right foods in order to maintain your energy. Lack of sleep and poor nutrition can lead to health problems, which may make caregiving even more challenging.
- Exercise regularly: Exercise is a crucial component for a healthy lifestyle. It’s important to find the time to remain active as it can help boost energy, increase sleep and improve overall health.
- Give yourself a break: Breaks in caregiving are crucial for maintaining a healthy balance. Remember to take time for yourself and don’t neglect the things you love to do.