If you’re an adult child taking care of aging parents, it can feel like you’re giving up your life to care for elderly parents. You may have initially felt fine looking after your parents, but now you’re exhausted, tired, and weary. Is there any reprieve?
Thankfully, there are many ways to handle the stress and burden of caring for your aging loved ones. Also, you’re not alone in feeling this way. Numerous adult children experience low bandwidth and place high pressure on themselves when caring for senior parents.
In this article, we’re talking about the importance of taking care of yourself as a caregiver. We’ll share caregiver self-care tips and home care resources like respite care.
Keep reading to learn about what kinds of support are available for caregivers.
The Importance of Self Care for Caregivers
It’s no secret that caring for someone else can be challenging, especially when you have your own life and responsibilities. But the importance of taking care of yourself can’t be overstated.
Often, family caregivers feel that they can’t care for themselves and that it’s selfish or unnecessary. They think they have a duty to care for their aging parents, and there’s no room for problem-solving their own stressors and struggles. However, this couldn’t be farther from the truth.
Caring for yourself allows you to take care of your family member better. When you’re rested and healthy, you’ll find yourself more alert, patient, and able to give quality care to your aging mom or dad.
Self-care will be different for every caregiver, but here’s a list of some things that are often included in a good self-care routine:
- Ample physical sleep and rest
- Regular exercise (e.g., walking, yoga, going to the gym)
- A healthy diet
- Regular time with friends or a spouse
- Scheduling and attending personal dental and medical appointments
We know what you might be thinking, “This all sounds great, but how do I start integrating caregiver self-care into my life practically?”
That’s a great question. Here are three caregiver self-care tips to help you start a self-care routine.
1. Identify and Manage Stress
One of the first things you can do to provide yourself with self-care is to begin identifying and managing stress. As you care for your parent throughout the day, start to recognize when you get stressed. Does stress come from:
- Lack of sleep or rest?
- Frustration with others?
- Frustration toward a particular situation?
- The feeling of being out of control?
- Certain conversations?
Once you recognize what causes stress or the situations that regularly bring about stress, you can start to manage that stress. Managing stress well means finding positive coping mechanisms.
When you realize you’re getting stressed, some easy things to do are:
- Stop and take a few deep breaths
- Step away from the situation for a few minutes
- Do some form of exercise, like a quick walk
- Reach out to a family member or friend
Every caregiver has a unique situation. Find what causes you stress and start workshopping ways to deal with it healthily.
2. Set Boundaries
Second, you’ll want to set boundaries with your own time and schedule. Healthy limitations include saying “yes” to things that promote a healthy lifestyle and “no” to something that would cause extra stress. Setting boundaries helps you protect your time and life responsibilities.
An example might be having a regular date time with your spouse. Set the day and time each week. No matter what happens (apart from a serious emergency), don’t reschedule or let something else get in the way.
Setting boundaries can be tough to start doing, but it will reap great benefits once you begin.
3. Ask for Help
Finally, ask for help. Asking for help is often very difficult for family caregivers. But it’s one of the best ways to get relief as a caregiver.
The hardest part of asking for help is the initial ask. You may feel that you’re burdening others with your request for help. However, you might find that others are more willing to lend a hand than you initially thought. It never hurts to ask; the worst thing they can say is “no.”
Two groups of people you already might know to ask are other family members (or siblings) or neighbors/friends. But do you know there’s another excellent option for home help with an elderly parent?
Finding a respite program or respite caregiver can provide long-term, consistent help as you care for an aging family member.
Respite Care: Caring for the Caregiver
Respite care is one of the most beneficial home care resources that home care agencies offer to adult children caring for aging parents.
With respite care, a trained in-home caregiver will go directly to your house or your parent’s place of residence. A respite caregiver will provide companionship and hands-on care with life tasks to your loved one.
While the caregiver is with your parent, you’ll be free to use the time for personal care or responsibilities. Respite care is a win-win for you and your aging loved ones: they get quality care from a trained caregiver, and you get a break from the burden of full-time caregiving.
Other benefits of respite care for family caregivers include:
- Provides a mental break from caregiving
- Gives renewed energy and perspective
- Allows for guilt-free time to pursue personal pleasures
Respite care is usually only part-time and scheduled for a few hours a few times each week. If your aging loved one ever needs increased care, most home care agencies will offer full-time caregiving services. Nevertheless, hiring a respite caregiver is a great starting point for temporary relief from the stresses of caregiving.
How to Get Respite Care
Caring for adult parents doesn’t necessarily mean giving up your life to care for elderly parents. It can seem like you need to spend all your time focused on caregiving, but that’s not true.
As a caregiver, it’s essential that you practice self-care. You can start by identifying and managing stress. Setting boundaries can also help you say “yes” to yourself and “no” to extra life tasks. Finally, there may be support available through other family, friends, or respite caregivers.
At Stowell Associates, we care deeply about two things:
- Providing quality care to aging adults
- Caring for the family caregiver
We aim to provide adult children peace of mind and aging parents with the best possible in-home care. We have highly-trained and compassionate caregivers ready to help relieve caregiver burdens through consistent respite care.
We also offer a powerful resource for family caregivers—virtual Care Coaching. With Care Coaching, you’ll get regular access to a master’s level Care Coach. Your coach’s goal is to improve your loved one’s safety, enhance their quality of life, and ease your burden of care.
Contact us today to talk with one of our expert Care Advisors or get started with Care Coaching.