How caregivers can take care of themselves
The secret to surviving long term caregiving is to pace yourself and rest when you’re tired. Being constantly exhausted and severely stressed causes significant health problems.
But many caregivers resist the advice to take regular breaks. Why? Because getting help with caregiving can be more of an emotional decision than a rational one. Many caregivers feel guilty about stepping away or afraid of bringing a stranger into the house.
We’ve got 6 tips to help you deal with these issues and make it easier to get some well-deserved time off.
6 tips make it easier for caregivers to take a break
1. Accept that you’ll feel guilty
Guilt is a normal part of caregiving simply because you care – it’s never going to disappear. Don’t let this stop you from getting the caregiving help you need. Taking regular breaks is the best way to maintain your overall health.
Besides, how much worse would you feel if you never took any breaks and your health declined to the point where you couldn’t care for your older adult? It doesn’t do them any good if you’re not physically or mentally well enough to be their caregiver.
2. Don’t ask your senior for permission
This isn’t a decision that your older adult gets to make. Many older adults refuse outside help because they’re uncomfortable with the idea. And seniors with dementia don’t have the cognitive ability to make a rational decision.
When seniors refuse, they’re not thinking of your needs and are often not considering their own true needs either. That’s why you need to make the decision, regardless of how they feel about it. All that matters is that they’re safe and well-cared-for when you’re not there.
3. Start before you really need it
It may take a while to find the right person to help and for them to learn the caregiving routines. That’s why it’s important to start getting help before you really need it.
If you’re putting together a team of family, friends, and volunteers to help, it’s less stressful if you have plenty of time to get the team in place and work out the details.
To make the transition easier, you could have someone come and shadow you until they learn the ropes and can be left alone with your older adult. Or, you could have someone come for a short time in the beginning and gradually increase their time as everyone adjusts to the new situation.
4. Combine paid services with help from friends, family, and volunteers
Hiring caregiving help can be expensive. But even if the cost is high, maintaining or improving your health is worth it.
Being open to different sources of help also lowers the cost of taking regular breaks. Ask family and friends for help and seek out volunteer programs that offer companionship services. Then supplement those hours with paid help.
5. Check in to know that your older adult is well-cared-for
You might be afraid or nervous to leave your older adult with a stranger or a family member with limited experience. To give you greater peace of mind, use simple, discreet ways to keep an eye on them and make sure they’re doing a good job.
You could sometimes come back early as a surprise check-in to see what’s been happening. While you’re out, call occasionally to hear how things are going. Another good move is to ask the caregiver to take notes so you’ll know what happened while you were away.
6. Be creative when introducing the hired caregiver
If your older adult is very resistant to outside help, be sensitive and creative when introducing them to the household. Nobody wants to be told that they’re getting a babysitter. A careful approach is especially important to prevent seniors with Alzheimer’s or dementia from reacting with fear or anxiety.
For example, you could introduce the person as your helper around the house and have them help you with meal prep, light housekeeping, and simple care tasks. After a few of these visits, it will seem normal that they’re around and it will be easier for you to leave to run “errands.”
You could also frame it as doing that person a favor. Perhaps you could say that this person is in need of a job, so you’re helping them out with a few hours of work here and there.
If family or friends are helping, you could say that they wanted to visit and spend some time catching up. When they become regular visitors, you can start popping out to run “errands.”
By DailyCaring Editorial Team
Image: Give Love Project