As a leading senior placement advisor, we know that taking care of an elderly loved one can be one of the most rewarding experiences a person can have. But it can also be an incredible responsibility, one that requires the most of you and that may leave you stressed and ill-prepared for the daily demands of everyday life. When people turn to us for our senior care services, we always remind them of how important it is for caregivers to make time for themselves — because self-care is not just essential to their own well-being but to the health and safety of their senior loved ones.
Don’t Let Guilt Interfere
Still, if you’re the primary caregiver for an older relative, partner, or friend, self-care is often easier said than done. Guilt often compels caretakers to postpone or neglect their own needs. This is not only unfortunate but unhealthy: older caretaking spouses, for example, have a 63% higher chance of dying or becoming ill than do their non-caregiving counterparts. Adult children who find themselves constantly tending to the needs of older parents are far more likely to suffer from depression, chronic illness, and a decline in quality of life.
Self-care is something caregivers must recognize the need for, mindfully make time for, and to allow. Seeking out the advice and expertise of a senior placement advisor is one way many caregivers lighten some of their responsibilities. Relying on the outside help of senior care services for things like meal prep and light housekeeping is another. However you make time for yourself, it’s imperative that you do so. Below are a few more ways to prioritize your well-being as a senior caretaker.
Ask for Help
Asking for help might be the simplest and most direct way of accommodating your own needs, but it’s surprising how often caregivers are reluctant to do so. They don’t want to burden others, or they might feel they’re undeserving of it, or they just don’t know how to ask. But help doesn’t have to be all-encompassing; it can come in the form of a grocery run by a neighbor or a friend visiting with your loved one while you take a brief walk. Believe it or not, most people want to help, so don’t wait until you’re overwhelmed to ask for it. Reach out to trusted friends and reliable family members to help manage your caregiving, or seek out the services of a senior placement advisor to help you identify options. Most importantly, know that asking for help is one of the best ways to help your senior loved one.
Being able to ask for and receive help is often sabotaged by our own attitudes and beliefs about ourselves and others. Many caregivers believe they're the only ones who can deliver the right kind of care and seek to control a situation that would be best served by occasionally relinquishing control. Other times, caregivers are trying to live up to a standard set by a parent or a family dynamic that’s unrealistic or unfair. There are all kinds of mental roadblocks that can impede one’s self-care, and they can set up negative feedback loops. So, ask yourself: is my mindset keeping me from taking care of myself, and if so, how can I break myself from that limiting belief?
Chances are that the care of your elderly loved one is a time of deep and significant emotion. It’s a time of reflection and hope and a phase of life that requires caregivers to be at once pragmatic and philosophical. None of that is easy. It is so important to honor the emotional aspect of your role as a caregiver and allow yourself to get emotional. That might mean breaking down and having a good cry; it could mean laughing at nothing and just rejoicing in silliness. You don’t need an excuse to feel your emotions. You just need the space to have them, so give yourself that, and know it’s for your own good.
Know the Worth of What You’re Doing
Ultimately, taking care of anyone, no matter what their age or abilities, is about recognizing yourself in the person for whom you are showing up. All of us need care. It’s also about knowing the worth of what it is you’re doing. When you feel overwhelmed or impatient, angry or sad, know that what you're contributing to the life of your loved one is not insignificant. It matters and recognizing that can go a very long way toward giving you the strength and perspective you need to meet the challenges of your day.
Senior Care Authority is a recognized senior placement advisor that can help you navigate the rewards and challenges of senior care. To find out more about our services, reach out today.