The COVID-19 pandemic is more than enough to wear anyone out. The prevention practices alone are exhausting — remembering your mask, disinfecting, social distancing — all those unpleasantries that the responsible among us deal with every day. Add caring for a loved one to the mix and you need to be on alert for caregiver burnout.
But how about when you are a caregiver for someone else?
Caregiving is exhausting enough when there’s not a pandemic going on. And trying to get your patient or loved one to adhere to hygiene rules they don’t understand can be frustrating, at best.
Now more than ever, there’s an important someone you need to take care of — yourself. It’s not only imperative to maintaining your mental health and happiness — it will also help keep you physically healthy and be a better caregiver for your patient or loved one. Here are some guidelines to help ensure you avoid toxic burnout and other serious issues.
Eat nutritious foods
It is easy to grab a frozen, processed dinner, or fast food meal when you are a caregiver. The demands can often outweigh your available time and energy. Convenience food might serve you well for a while — but over time, your energy will begin to deplete, and you will find yourself struggling to maintain composure when challenges arise. Over time, this may lead to health-threatening illnesses like diabetes and cancer, especially if you are genetically predisposed to these illnesses. So take a few extra minutes and prepare a great, nutritious meal for yourself and your patient or loved one. You’ll both be better off for it.
Get enough sleep
In today’s busy world, getting a good night’s sleep might seem like a luxury you can’t afford. But the sobering truth is, you can’t afford to not get your recommended daily dose of shuteye. A lack of sleep can lead to a host of long-term issues, such as diabetes, depression, obesity, and cardiovascular disease. And good sleep habits can bring you incredible benefits, like increased energy and libido, mental clarity, and a better outlook on life.
Get plenty of exercise
You may be so focused on making sure your loved one or patient gets their daily exercise that you forget your own regimen. Be sure you are getting at least 20 minutes of cardiovascular exercise every day, in the form of walking, jogging, biking, or other activities you enjoy. If you are unable to leave your caregiving facility, have some recorded exercise programs available you can follow while you are taking care of your loved one or patient.
Remember that some exercise is better than none — and on those days when it’s just not possible to take 20 minutes to yourself, jog in place for a few minutes or stretch. Your body will thank you.
Take up meditation
Learning to quiet the mind takes some time and practice, but its rewards are enormous. Not only will it help you reduce stress and negative emotions, but it will also help you learn how to respond better to the pressures of our world. Meditation gives your mind a break from its sometimes constant cycle of negative thought patterns and recharges it with peaceful feelings and a sense of wellbeing.
Stay focused on the present
In today’s stressful times, the mind may have a tendency to drift out of the present moment into fears and uncertainty about the future, or perhaps a longing for “the good ol’ days” of the past. But thinking about the future adds unnecessary stress to your already staggering mental load. Pining for the past can quickly lead to increased depression or anger. These mental journeys are usually not helpful and can quickly lead to burnout. Staying in the present as much as possible — just focusing on your daily activities — will help keep your mind on a smoother, more peaceful course.
Get a massage
There is no denying the power of the healing touch. Not only does it release your tight muscles, improve posture, and help you relax, it also allows you to drift away from your cares for a while. While you are on the massage table, there is nothing for you to do but enjoy the calming environment and pleasurable sensations.
Do something you enjoy
Take time out to work on a hobby, visit a friend, read a book, or visit a location you love. Life isn’t just working, eating, and sleeping — at least, it shouldn’t be. When your work is focusing all your energies on the needs of another person, you may tend to overlook your own. You, too, have needs and desires — things that make life fun, beautiful, engrossing, and well worth living.
Connect with other caregivers
We all get in over our heads once in a while — even the best of us. Sometimes you just need to talk to someone who really gets it — the unique challenges that we as caregivers face. Participating in a local memory café or online caregivers group will put you in touch with other caregivers, who can offer you support and make you realize that you are not alone.
Get professional assistance
The following agencies offer helpful caregiver resources for when you need professional support:
Caregiver Action Network 1-855-227-3640
National Alliance for Caregiving 1-202-918-1013
VA Caregivers Support Line 1-855-260-3274
AARP Family Caregiving 1-877-333-5885
Seek respite care to tackle caregiver burnout
Though you may wish to continue caring for your loved one on your own, you’re only human and there’s only so much you can handle. You have a life to live, dreams to pursue, and other responsibilities you must address. Some may view seeking respite care as a cop-out or a failure to be there for your loved one in their time of need. But caregiver burnout is real and knowing when you are in over your head is a sign of maturity and wisdom. It shows a desire to make sure your loved one receives the excellent care they deserve.
If you are feeling exhausted, bitter, angry, depressed, or overwhelmed, it may be time to hand over the reins to caring professionals who can help. Avoid caregiver burnout and give us a call at (207) 699-2570 or send us an email at [email protected] We understand the many challenges you are facing and will work with you to create a caregiving plan that fits your needs and your budget. You’ll get a much-needed break to rest and recharge — and that will make you a better caregiver in the long run. We also provide emergency services in the event you are unable to care for your loved one due to illness or injury.
So go out and live a little. With Advantage Home Care in your corner, you can enjoy your life again.