Importance of Taking Care of Yourself as a Caregiver
Being the caregiver to an older adult can be extremely rewarding. You are paying it forward by taking care of your parents as they once took care of you. But it can also have its challenges and struggles as well. Often times caregivers can feel tired and sometimes feel like they want to give up. Feelings such as this is often referred to as Caregiver Burnout. This is when the caregiver is in a state of physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion that is also accompanied by a change of attitude, usually from positive and caring to negative and detached. Often this occurs when caregivers do not take care of themselves and receive the help that they need. This can lead to experiences of fatigue, stress, anxiety, and depression.
It is very important to remember that in order to properly care for your family member, you need to take care of yourself. This means eating proper meals, getting enough sleep, continuing to participate in the activities that are of interest to you, and continuing to see friends and other family members. Making time for yourself is a necessity, not a luxury. Taking an hour or two a day for yourself could help in being able to have the energy to properly do what needs to be done in caring for the older adult. Taking this time might feel impossible, it might feel that it is not worth it, but it is possible and it is worth it to keep you and your family happy and healthy for years to come.
Caregiving requires a team of people. No one person should or feel that they should do everything alone. This team can be comprised of many people including family, friends, and hired professionals. By having more people to distribute the workload it also makes more time for you to do other things as well.
The good news is there are many ways to avoid burnout and receive the help you need. Find someone who you feel comfortable sharing your feelings with. This should be someone who you can share your frustrations with. This can be someone such as a friend, co-worker, or neighbor. There are also trained counselors who you can talk to if you are not comfortable talking with someone in your social circle. Professionals such as therapists, social workers, and clergy members are trained to help and may be able to find you additional resources.
A good first step to getting the help you need is to contact your local senior services agency, otherwise known as Aging Services Access Points. For Woburn, this would be Minuteman Senior Services. They can help by referring you to programs that will help make the life of the person you are caring for and your life easier.