Being a caregiver is a gratifying experience. Helping someone in need can provide a sense of purpose and create a strong bond between you and the person you care for. But caregiving can also be physically, mentally and emotionally exhausting, especially for those who care for someone with dementia. It is essential to take care of yourself when caring for others.
Without self-care, caregivers can experience burnout, which is a critical issue for the person providing care and the one receiving.
Ways Caregivers Can Take Care of Themselves
Learn the signs of caregiver burnout
About 40 percent of caregivers responding to a recent survey said they felt emotionally stressed, and 20 percent felt physically strained. The demands of caregiving can cause burnout, which significantly affects the caregiver’s body, mind and emotions. Research shows caregivers under a lot of stress had poorer health outcomes than those who experienced very little strain.
Learning the signs of caregiver burnout can help you avoid it before it begins. The signs of caregiver burnout can include:
- Withdrawal and social isolation from friends and family;
- Loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed;
- Feelings of sadness, anxiousness, irritability, helplessness or hopelessness;
- Changes in appetite or weight;
- Alterations in sleep patterns;
- Physical and emotional exhaustion;
- The perception you lack control over your life;
- Insufficient energy;
- Neglect of your own needs and health; and
- Occurrence of sickness more often than usual.
Address caregiver burnout early
Address caregiver burnout as soon as you notice the signs. Consult your doctor if your caregiving duties negatively affect your health, and reach out to friends and family if you feel socially isolated. Develop relationships with other caregivers to discover what they did when they experienced burnout. Seek out friends, family, and others willing to share caregiving duties.
Maintain a healthy lifestyle
Caregiving can take a significant toll on your health. Helping your loved one move around can cause back pain and body aches, for example, and tight time schedules can prevent you from eating well or exercising regularly.
Take steps to maintain a healthy lifestyle: Purchase your favorite nutritious meals that are easy to prepare, schedule time to exercise, and visit your doctor regularly.
Create a schedule
Scheduling chores, events, appointments and activities make the day run smoothly. It also makes it easier to schedule help from other people who want to give the caretaker a break. The schedule should also include an adequate amount of personal time each day, week, and month to relax and unwind.
Exercising improves health, of course, but physical activity also reduces stress. While most caregivers do not have time to go to the gym every day, they can squeeze in a walk around the block, carve out a few minutes to do yoga, or use exercise videos. Ideally, caregivers should aim for 30 to 40 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise at least three times a week. You can even break the activity into smaller sessions as needed.
Find and use community resources
Look for organizations that offer activities, therapies, memory-care professionals, and experienced volunteers that can help enrich lives of people with memory issues and make life easier for the caregiver.
Consider respite care
Respite care gives caregivers a temporary rest from their caregiving duties while the person with dementia receives care they need in a safe environment. This care can occur in the home or a care setting, such as a long-term care community or an adult daycare. Friends, family members, volunteers, or paid professionals can provide respite care.
Using respite care can support and strengthen the caregiver’s ability to provide care. This temporary rest can also give the person with dementia an opportunity to meet others and participate in activities designed to meet their abilities and personal interests.
Build relationships with other caregivers
People who provide care for those with dementia often have little time to socialize. When they find the time, caregivers may feel they no longer have much in common with friends and family. Caregivers can also feel guilty about spending time away from their duties.
Spending time with other people who provide care can give caregivers much-needed social interaction. Building relationships with other caregivers can also allow you to ask questions, share hints and tips, and learn valuable information about dementia.
Contact us for more information on how dementia caregivers can take great care of themselves or understand the memory care services available in Cincinnati.