Are you looking after a member of your family or a loved one? If so, then you will be taking on the role of a carer and this is going to change your life. You will feel more pressure and it will almost always change your relationship with the individual. They will start to see you as a carer rather than as a son, a daughter or even a friend. You may see them differently too because they become a responsibility and an obligation even though you are taking this action out of love.
Something often forgotten through family care-giving is self-care. We spend so much time thinking about the individual in our care that we completely forget to look after ourselves. Unfortunately, this can lead to serious issues. It can impact our health and our personal wellbeing while also impacting the quality of care your loved one receives too. If you’re not in the right frame of mind or at the right level of fitness, you are always going to struggle to deliver the support they need.
It’s fair to say that you are going to face a few difficulties when attempting to get the self-care you require when looking after someone you love. Let’s break these down so you can approach them the right way.
Coping With The Guilt
One of the biggest problems that caregivers face is guilt. In some cases, carers feel like they are never doing enough and never providing as much support as they could be. In other cases, they feel guilty when they release control over particular situations. It’s also common to feel angry about certain elements of care and then guilty about losing control of your emotions in this way.
Of course, a lot of people will feel guilty because they have felt connected to wanting to focus more on their own life. Essentially, they begin to wish that they weren’t tied to the responsibilities of a carer at all. This can be difficult to cope with but it’s important to understand that this guilt isn’t helping you and it’s certainly not helping the person in your care.
It’s certainly normal to feel guilty in certain situations. But you don’t need to let it control you completely. Instead, you can let the emotion fade and pass you by. You can move on. You don’t need to be ashamed of your feelings because they are perfectly natural. If you don’t dwell on them, they won’t define how you interact with the person that you are caring for.
Losing Your Physical Health
Your physical health can also take a significant hit when you’re a carer. Again, this is usually because you are looking after someone and focusing all your time and effort on them. But if you’re not in the right physical health you aren’t going to be in the right position to provide the support they need. Don’t forget the level of physical fitness is always going to be tied to other elements of your health too. It’s going to impact your sleeping pattern and this will, in turn, connect to whether you are in control of your emotions. This could even begin to affect other members of your family.
As such, it’s important to focus on the various elements of your health. This includes ensuring that you are staying active. It’s important that you do get enough exercise on a daily and weekly basis. You need to ensure that you are fitting this into your routine as a carer. It’s so easy for this to be the first part of your personal life that you begin to neglect. You also need to ensure that you are eating well. This can be a challenge because you could be preparing their food. As such, you might resort to quick, ready meals for you or even just snacking through the day. Neither is going to provide the right benefits that you need for your health. As well as helping you sleep better, the right diet along with the right level of exercise can ensure that you are going to be able to cope with the needs of your loved one.
Tips For Taking Care Of Yourself
If you have taken on the role of a carer for your loved one or family member, it is important to understand the best ways that you can look after yourself. Remember, by taking care of yourself, you will always improve the quality of living for the individual who you love. What’s best for you will also be best for them. So, what options should you keep in mind here?
Learn About Their Condition
It’s important to learn all you can about the condition or disease that your loved one is suffering from. This is going to ensure that you are able to provide them with the best care possible. It will also guarantee that you know who to expect as their condition could progress over time. You will even be able to relate more and connect to how they are feeling while gaining a deeper understanding of the way the condition is impacting their life.
Ultimately though, this knowledge is going to allow you to effectively plan and prepare. Providing the best care will always depend on how effectively you can adapt to different situations and guarantee that you are always taking the right steps forward with your approach.
Using The Resources Available
It’s important that you don’t feel alone when you are caring for a loved one. This doesn’t just mean relying on other members of your family. Instead, you should be reaching out to the resources around you and that is part of your local community. There are lots of examples of community resources that could help you from meals on wheels to daycare solutions. You might also want to contact your local agency on aging. They are going to be able to provide you with more information on what you can expect and offer you even more coping strategies.
Get The Breaks You Need
It’s possible that your loved one needs support or care 24/7. However, this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be taking breaks. Without breaks, you are quickly going to burn out and end up in a difficult situation. There are lots of ways to blow off steam and escape your responsibilities. You should be involving other members of the family in these ideas too from date nights to a family trip to the movies. Every so often, you need to do something that is completely unrelated to your role as a carer. This is going to ensure that you can still enjoy your life and that you still gain precious ‘me’ time.
As well as taking a break, you need to ensure that you take time to relax and enjoy yourself. Relaxation is going to be different for everyone and will always depend on the individual. You need to find the right option that works for you. This could be as simple as reading a book or it could be a little more luxurious than this such as getting a massage.
You do need to make sure that you are opting to get support as much as you can. It can be incredibly useful and indeed beneficial if you are able to speak to people who are in the same position as you. They will be able to share their thoughts on your individual challenges and often you advice based on what they have experienced. It can also ensure that you don’t feel alone. If you don’t feel like you can attend a support group, then you may want to consider simply finding a friend you can lean on when you need to. It’s always great if you have someone who is going to pick up the phone when you require an extra helping hand. It can make it feel like the emotional load that you are carrying is far lighter.
One of the most important things that you can do as a carer ensto ures that you are able to communicate effectively with the person who you are responsible for. This is particularly important to ensure that you are offering the right level of empathy for their situation. They need to feel as though you are on your side. It can also help you connect and interact or engage with someone who has issues communicating. This might include those with dementia. Dementia is incredibly common and there are hundreds of different forms. However, with the right communication skills, it is still possible to reach and connect with someone who is suffering from this condition. This is going to make your role as a carer far less stressful.
Sometimes, it can be difficult to accept help when you are caring for a family member, even when you might want or need it. There are numerous reasons why people struggle to accept help. They might find it difficult to let go of control of the situation. They might also not trust people to provide the same level of care to their loved ones that they need. However, it’s important to realize that no one can fully cope with this role by themselves. You have to be willing to accept help when it comes to a wide variety of different sources. If you can build a solid support group, you will again be able to reduce the pressure that you are under as a carer. You can guarantee it doesn’t take over your entire life.
Learn To Laugh
They say that laughter is the best form of medicine and as a carer you will find that this is absolutely true. Particularly when it comes to your own wellbeing. If things constantly feel serious then it’s going to make the whole situation far worse. Ideally, you should be able to laugh with the person you’re caring for too. Try to see the funny side of situations and things will feel far less stressful. You might also want to watch comedy shows when you have spare time and just let yourself be happy. This is another area where people often feel guilty. If you’re loved one isn’t in a good emotional place, you might feel guilty about feeling good yourself. However, this is never the right approach. You should always let yourself smile, even when things aren’t going right.
Finally, you need to make sure that you are forgiving yourself. It’s possible that you will do your best to be the absolute perfect carer. You might push yourself to be better every single day and this is fantastic. However, ultimately, you’re never going to reach that goal. You’re not going to make mistakes. Mistakes will always be part of the process and you have to learn from these. You have to ensure that they are the lessons you take on board. But you also have to forgive your errors in judgment. You can’t be too hard on yourself. If you do this, then you will always be dragging yourself down and this is going to impact your level of self-care.
As you can see there are numerous elements of self-care to keep in mind for those involved in family caregiving. It is important that you do not neglect your needs, focusing solely on the needs of the person that you are caring for. As well as impacting their quality of care, this is also going to change your physical and mental health. It could determine whether you are able to continue in your role as care for the long term.
Of course, one of the best ways for handling the pressures of a carer and ensuring that you do care for yourself is by relying on others and the services available. Respite care solutions are ideal. Temporary care support can ensure that you are able to get the time away you need, often, with your family. As well as this, you won’t need to relinquish the support you’re offering completely.