You’ve probably read a thousand different articles that tell you how to take time for yourself, but who has the time to really focus on yourself when you have so many other things to worry about? Whether you are an Adult Family Home Coordinator, a family member caring for a loved one, or an experienced Assisted Living Facility staff member, you know that focusing your attention on someone else’s care often means letting your self-care slip a little. After all, when you prioritize others, either professionally or personally, your own needs often go unmet.
Studies of informal caregivers have shown that caregivers can face a much higher rate of illness and even death due to the stresses of caregiving. We hear less often about professional caregivers such as nurses, Adult Family Home providers, and other staff who work in caregiving roles, however. Studies of these populations show that there is not only a high health risk, but a high rate of “burnout” – that is, dissatisfaction with their job – which can lead to a number of other social and psychological complications.
So what can you do to take care of yourself in quick, easy ways that don’t break the bank or the clock?
Sometimes as caregivers, we fail to follow our own advice. While we’ll encourage those we care for to drink plenty of water, we get so busy with our work that we forget to do the same. Staying hydrated can help keep away fatigue and hunger. You’d be surprised by how much better you’ll feel after having a glass of water!
Try to take time on a regular basis to focus inward and reflect. This could take the form of meditation, prayer, or even just a bubble bath! You’ve probably heard this advice a thousand times but have dismissed it because it takes too much time. But even taking as few as ten minutes out of your day to reflect and process the things that you have been through can be helpful, because without it you’ll find it much harder to cope. Take an inventory of what you’ve been through, what you’re still experiencing, and the things that are likely to happen soon. Categorize these things by things you can control and things outside of your control. For the things you can control, think of the things that you can do to help handle the situation. Anything outside of your control, as my mom would say, you can let go and let God.
Write It Down
After taking the time to get centered, it’s a good idea to get those thoughts out of your head and onto paper. There’s something about writing down your feelings that helps you move forward. Making these thoughts external and concrete allows you to literally turn the page on them – write it down, let it go, and turn the page. And just like that, you’ve got a blank page to start off on tomorrow.
Keep It Moving
Regular exercise is good for you – you know this, of course, but when you’re a busy caregiver, finding the time to get down to the gym isn’t always an option. Consider finding “sneaky” ways to get in some exercise where you can. I know one person who does simple body weight squats while waiting for their food to microwave in the break room at lunch. A home caregiver might take their parent for a walk to the store, pushing them in a wheelchair, where it might have been easier to drive. Even just getting up and stretching regularly, moving your muscles in different ways than you normally do while working, is a huge help.
Delegate Where You Can
It’s easy to fall into the trap of, “If I don’t do it, nobody else will.” Oftentimes, the help we need is there – we just need to learn how to ask for it. We’ve seen this pattern repeat itself over and over, both in professional and informal caregiving environments. The Director of Nursing who micromanages their staff, the Adult Family Home Provider who doesn’t trust any of their staff to manage certain tasks, or the family caregiver who tries to take on the care of their loved one without any assistance – in all these situations, there is a staff member or family member who would be able to help.
For family caregivers, think about the strengths of your family members who have offered to help. Maybe none of them can do everything that you can, but maybe there’s somebody who can drive to doctor’s appointments so that you can get an hour or two to yourself. Maybe a cousin is a fantastic cook and can take that off your plate one night a week. Anything to bring in help to keep you from taking on every task that comes up will be a major helper in easing your stress.
If you’re a professional caregiver, think about your coworkers or subordinates and what you know they’re capable of doing. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the sheer number of things you need to accomplish, consider asking one of them for assistance.
We know it can be hard to prioritize your own needs as a caregiver, which is why here at Soundview Medical Supply, we care for caregivers. With fifteen years of experience in incontinence care, providing supplies to Medicaid patients in the Pacific Northwest, we are here to make getting your needed supplies without the headache that can come with dealing with Medicaid. If you’re in need of incontinence supplies, facility supplies, or other senior care needs, give us a call at 1-800-845-4925.