Caring for a loved one with a long-term illness, such as dementia can be very rewarding. It also requires a lot of hard work and can take a toll on you physically, financially and/or emotionally.
When caring for a loved one, no matter how much you love and care for that person, you may begin to feel trapped, angry, depressed or even sick. It is important to find a healthy balance between caring for your loved one and maintaining your own physical, mental and emotional health.
If you don’t care for yourself properly, you can experience caregiver burnout. Caregiver burnout can interfere with your ability to care for your loved one, possibly causing them to go into a nursing home and place risks on your own health.
Here are 5 tips to avoid caregiver burnout:
- Learn about the condition or illness. Knowing what to expect can lower your stress. It will also help you to plan for future expenses and give you time to learn skills you may need later on. By knowing symptoms of the illness, you can also be prepared for what’s to come, such as behaviors. Some conditions can cause your loved one to act out, say harmful things or not even remember who you are.
- Ask for help. Make a list of tasks you would like help with and people you can count on to help with these tasks. To start, try asking a neighbor to pick up a few items from the store each week or ask a family member to help with paperwork, research or chores. You can even contact your local Area Agency on Aging to find volunteer groups in your area. Many groups can help with meal delivery, transportation and respite care.
- Take breaks. Go outside for a walk or to relax in the sun. Chat with a friend. Listen to some music. Use respite care or an adult day center for long breaks at least once a week.
- Take care of your health too! Go for regular dental and health checkups. Be sure to ask about getting a flu shot and any health screenings you may need. As much as possible, keep regular sleeping patterns for yourself and the person you are caring for. Eat healthy meals and snacks. Engage in daily physical activity as it can help to reduce stress and increase your energy. Your mental health is important too. Join a local support group or talk to a counselor.
- Stay positive. A positive attitude may help you to give your loved one the best care possible. You may not be able to make the person you are caring for well, but you can offer dignity and do your best to help them feel safe and loved.
If you or someone you know is caring for someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia and can use support, encourage them to attend our monthly support group! Our group meets on the second Thursday of the month from 12:00 pm – 2:00 pm at our Garden City Office. Check our calendar for future meeting dates and registration!