We know that taking care of someone is no easy task. Often caregiving is both physically and emotionally demanding, and caregivers can find themselves burnt out and exhausted throughout the process.
If you’re feeling the pressures of caregiving, please keep reading. We want to share helpful pieces of advice to keep you going.
Take Care of You, Too
If you’re a caregiver, you NEED to put in extra effort to make sure you’re caring for yourself. Caregivers will often spend their days sleep deprived, dehydrated, and hungry because they either dismiss or forget about their own needs.
Starting today, we encourage you to do the following:
- Set your OWN boundaries & know your limits. You don’t have to say “yes” to everything, even if it feels that way. Make sure you think about what you can handle, and what is too much.
- Keep track of your basic needs. You may need to set reminders to drink water and eat, but make sure you do it. If your loved one needs 24/7 care, it may be time to request help so that you can take breaks to nourish yourself.
- Make sure your emotional needs are met. We all have our own way to deal with emotions. Find yours. This could be joining a support group, journaling, exercise, creative outlets, mediation… you get the picture.
- Enjoy life. This one can be hard, especially if your loved one is suffering. Make time to do the things you like to do and spend time with the people you care about. Think about ways you can enjoy time with your loved one as well.
Important Tip: Find an organization that’s dedicated to people like you: Caregivers. You have the right to talk about your feelings, take a break, and get support. We recommend Caregivers Alberta as a great place to start.
Do Your Research & Get Organized
You have a great responsibility and it’s one you need to be as prepared for as possible. That responsibility becomes more manageable when you understand what you’re up against and are organized to greet each challenge.
The best way to do this is to get familiar with your loved one’s condition as much as possible. Hop online, talk to their doctor, and speak to your loved one about their symptoms. You will also want to:
- Research their medications & log them in a notebook or spreadsheet.
- Plan out your day in advance with a “must do” list and schedule.
- Figure out all the tips and tricks to relieve pain and make your loved one comfortable.
Important Tip: Make sure you understand the risks and potential emergencies that may arise. Ask your loved one’s doctor how you can best prepare for if they take a turn for the worse. This could include a “to go” hospital bag, emergency contacts on the fridge, a stocked medicine cabinet, or a dedicated family member to be your back up.
Keep Meaningfully Connecting
Many people find meaningfully interacting with their loved one can be difficult once they become their caregiver. Perhaps their way of communicating is different due to physical or mental changes, or you no longer can bond over the things that once brought you together.
First of all, we want you to know that this is natural. Things may be changing, and you’ll need to change with them. Here are some things to keep in mind:
- Give encouragement every day. This can be telling your loved one “good job,” coaching them through a task, or reminding them of their little wins throughout the week. This is especially true for the things they may not want to do, but need to do (like walking after surgery, drinking liquids, or practicing motor movements).
- Don’t say empty things. If you’re unsure of what to say, know that it’s okay to be together in silence. Avoid telling your loved one to “ask for help,” but instead offer your help and be proactive with assistance.
- Use your words to share your feelings. Telling your loved one your thoughts and feelings is not a burden—though we often seem to think so when someone is unwell. Let them know when you need to rest or if you’re feeling overwhelmed. This will create a shared empathy between you two.
Ultimately, open and honest communication is better for both of you.
Recruit Some Help
Here’s the bottom line of it all: You don’t have to do this alone. By recruiting the help of others, you can avoid burnout and give your loved one your best self and care.
- Let other family members and friends help.
- Build connections with your loved one’s healthcare team.
- Take advantage of free (or affordable) community services: This could include meal programs, transportation services, social work centres, or advocacy groups.
- Hire help if you can.
We can help. Reach out to Nurses on Demand to get respite for you and care for your loved one.