Whether you are an around-the-clock, live-in caregiver or you're simply managing your loved one’s care from afar, your job as 'family caregiver' can be an extremely stressful one. Before long, you may find yourself feeling physically, emotionally, and mentally drained. To prevent burnout, it's important to be proactive about taking steps to relieve caregiver-related stress.
Take care of your own health. Prioritize getting the appropriate nutrition, sleep, and exercise that your body requires. If you have any health issues of your own, this means ensuring that your own medical needs are met before caring for the needs of others.
Ask for help from family and friends. Don't put the expectation on yourself to be everything for your loved one at all times; there's only so much you can handle. Recruit the help of friends and family - and say “YES” when help is offered. Even if it’s just to have them bring over a meal, do some laundry or housework, or spend time with Mom or Dad so you can get a break, it will go a long way.
Hire help. This might include hiring a caregiver to assist your loved one with self-care tasks, a housekeeper to help with cleaning and laundry, or a person to help with yard work and home repairs.
Say “NO”. Only you know what your capabilities and limitations are, and sometimes it is necessary to just say NO. That could be NO to your loved one’s request, a work request, a request from another family member or friend, or an event. It is important not to spread yourself too thin.
Talk it out with someone. Make the effort to maintain relationships with people you can rely on for emotional support, and feel open to talk out any issues or simply vent with these important people. If you feel you do not have relationships like this in your life or need something more involved, consider seeing a counselor or psychologist to deal with some of your emotions.
Make time to engage in leisure and personally meaningful activities. Whether you enjoy gardening, playing a sport, reading, or going out to lunch with friends, make sure you set aside regular time just for YOU to engage in meaningful activities.
Make time to engage in relaxing activities. Again, the job of being a family caregiver is stressful! Finding ways to de-stress and incorporate relaxation into your life is key. Doing yoga, going for a massage, or simply taking 10 minutes to do a meditation will help you to feel more relaxed.
Utilize respite care. This could mean a weekend get-away for yourself, hiring respite care for an extended period of time, or simply taking out an hour or two a week to catch a much needed break.
We hope that you found these tips helpful to managing family caregiver stress, as taking care of yourself is the first step in being the best caregiver that you can be for Mom or Dad!