Self Care for the Caregiver

Self Care for the Caregiver

Phenomenal caregivers have a few valuable traits in common. For one thing, they are led by compassion. They are eager to help those who cannot help themselves and are willing to put in the necessary time and work to make sure the care they provide is of the highest quality. They also understand that it is critical for a caregiver to regularly engage in self-care – because a healthy and energized caregiver is in a much better position to be there for another person. 

Self-care does not come naturally to many caregivers. When a senior needs help to get through every hour, it leaves little time for a caregiver to stop and nurture their own health. Not only that, but caregivers often have a hard time putting themselves first. They tend to make sacrifices so they can dedicate all of themselves to the person who needs them. 

The problem is that without self-care, it’s easy to burn out as a caregiver. This job can be stressful and exhausting, physically demanding, and emotionally taxing. A burned out caregiver is less likely to provide a high quality of care to the seniors who rely on them. They might have less patience, become more easily frustrated, and even become forgetful in their tiredness. This could lead to disastrous outcomes including forgetting to give prescribed medications, lashing out at the senior in their care, or even falling asleep on the job. 

This is why the best caregivers understand that self-care isn’t selfish – it’s actually a critical part of the job. 

How, though, can a caregiver engage in self-care? Especially when they need to dedicate so much of their time to the senior in their care? There are many ways a caregiver can take some time for themselves without impacting the time they need to take with their clients. Just a few minutes a day can make an enormous difference in the mental and physical health of a caregiver. 

It’s essential that a caregiver has a good support system in place. Whether this means a good friend to vent to at the coffee shop on weekends or a family member to call on your drive home each night, find someone you trust and love that you can rely on. We all need to let out steam from time to time – but caregivers have an especially stressful job and having someone to talk to is one way to relieve that stress. It’s okay – and even necessary – to ask for help from your support system, too. If you need someone to pick up some groceries for you or walk your dog while you’re at work, don’t hesitate to ask. Caregivers often believe they can do it all – but if you’re trying to do everything alone, you’re bound to burn out eventually. 

In addition to having a good support system, caregivers should make sure they have some time each week to do something they love. Whether this means ten minutes each evening to go on a walk or reading a chapter of your favorite book before bed, carve out a little bit of time each day to do something just for you. Participating in activities we enjoy keeps us feeling positive and relaxed. A good attitude is essential to being a great caregiver – and nothing makes a good attitude like engaging in something that makes you happy. This doesn’t have to mean taking a vacation or using hours of the day to work on a craft project. It can be as simple as a five minute meditation or a walk around the block. Just make sure you don’t forget to give yourself time just for you. 

Caregivers also need to take care of their bodies. This means eating healthy and getting enough sleep. After a long day at work, it’s easy to want to stop at a fast food drive-thru for a quick dinner – but a build up of unhealthy food leads to feelings of lethargy, indigestion, and possibly even depression. Healthy food choices – like fruits and vegetables – help us to stay energized, active, and even have a positive impact on our mental health. It’s recommended that caregivers take a few hours each weekend to do meal prep for the rest of the week. That way, your meals are ready to go as soon as you get home, and you won’t need to put in extra work to stay healthy after a long day of work. 

A good night’s sleep is absolutely essential to being a great caregiver – and is one of the hardest things for many caregivers to achieve. Be diligent about establishing and following through with a sleep schedule. A regular sleep schedule will prime your body to get tired around the same time each night and help you fall asleep more easily. Not only do you want to get a lot of sleep, but you also want to sleep well. Better sleep leads to a better mood and a better bill of health. Try to stay away from screens for at least forty-five minutes before bed time. Decompress by reading a book, taking a bath, or going for a walk. Avoiding alcohol before bedtime is also a good way to get a better night of sleep.

Self-care might not come naturally to most caregivers, but it’s absolutely essential to the job. Great caregivers are energized, positive, and healthy – and these qualities are enough to prepare them for anything that might come their way. Get ahead of the stress by being there for yourself first. The senior in your care will thank you for it.

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