While caring for aging parents can be a rewarding experience, it can also be a source of great stress. Balancing a job, a family, and caregiving tasks is a tall order for anyone. It’s normal to feel angry, frustrated, or resentful at times. It may seem that there are never enough hours in the day for you to meet your own needs. Or you may feel you’ve taken on more responsibilities than anyone else, and other family members just aren’t helping enough.
It sounds like a cliché, but it’s important to recognize that you cannot take care of others unless you first take care of yourself. It’s vital for your mental and physical health to acknowledge your feelings and look for ways to stay sane. Simmering resentments can get in the way of successful caregiving. Bottled-up stress can impact your health. Start today to:
• Recognize and respect your own limitations. Caregivers are often harder on themselves than they are on anyone else. You’re not expected to be Superman or Superwoman. Let go of needing to be the perfect parent, or the perfect son/daughter.
• Ask for help when you need it, and don’t reject help that is offered from family and friends. You may feel that it is your duty alone to take care of your family member(s), or that you don’t want to be a burden on others. However, accepting help from others gives you more time to yourself. You’ll be a better caregiver when you’re feeling more relaxed and less stressed. If someone offers to help, be specific about what he/she can do. Perhaps it’s grocery shopping, meal preparation, or running an errand. Let your kids pitch in to help with everyday household tasks such as making lunches, doing laundry, and cleaning up.
• Keep family and friends in your life. Don’t isolate yourself from the supportive people in your life because you’re “too busy.” These people can be your lifeline when you need to vent or take a break to do something fun.
• Allow yourself to be proud of all the things you do for others. Focus on all the ways you provide for your family and aging parents. Don’t beat yourself up about the things you can’t do, or wish you could do.
• Recharge your batteries. Taking care of yourself also means replenishing your spirit, and doing things you enjoy. Use time away from caregiving to engage in a hobby or do something relaxing. Treat yourself to quiet time reading, or going to a movie or seeing a friend. Exercise and get fresh air as much as possible.
Finding services in the community can be as much an act of caregiving as providing them yourself. Geriatric care management services, Meals-on-Wheels programs, in-home care agencies and adult day programs are only a few of the many support services available when you are a caregiver for an aging family member.
• If you or your spouse are working, find out if an employer has an Employee Assistance Program. (EAP) EAPs can often assist you in finding resources in your community.
• Contact your local Area Agency on Aging office. They can often provide information on resources for help.
• Network with other caregivers to find out what services help.
Remember: Allowing help from outside sources is a way to take care of yourself and maintain your sanity.
My company, Senior Transitions, helps families who are dealing with caregiver stress. If you would like to discuss your family’s needs, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or 850-894-6720 and we’ll be happy to help you.
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