Being a caregiver to a loved one is one of the most rewarding feelings you may feel in your lifetime. Still, caring for a senior loved one can be exhausting and stressful. When a loved one suffers from an injury, illness, or disease like Alzheimer’s, it can take a lot out of you mentally, emotionally, and physically.
As a caregiver, you must take care of yourself too. If you don’t take care of your own health, you will increase your chances of caregiver burnout and may even develop an illness of your own.
Often, a caregiver will put their own needs last, assuming that this is the best thing for their loved one, but this is actually a wrong assumption. To provide your loved one with the best possible care, you need your health too.
Fortunately, there are resources out there that will help you learn how to help your senior loved one while helping yourself. The Kensington Sierra Madre’s events are great resources for caregivers, such as the series we just ran – Dr. Marsha Nelson’s 6-week zoom workshop. This is a repeating event sponsored by The Kensington Sierra Madre. Concepts introduced include simple breathing exercises, drawing, and writing prompts to encourage physical awareness, stress release, and caregiver self-care.
Caregiver burnout and stress
Caregiver burnout is an all too common reaction to caring for a senior loved one. Many are ashamed to admit their stress and negative thoughts because it makes them feel guilty or selfish. However, these are normal feelings to have and are nothing to be ashamed of.
What this stress and these negative thoughts are telling you is that you need help too. Maybe you are exhausted from a lack of sleep, haven’t had time to socialize, or eat a healthy diet. Perhaps, a combination of all of these has led to burnout. You must take a step back to ensure that your needs are being met as well.
When you take care of your needs, you will be happier and able to maintain the special bond you have with your loved one. Some of those negative thoughts will subside, and you will feel healthier, stronger, and less agitated.
If you are struggling to maintain your own health, even after you have adopted healthier habits and a self-care routine, it may be time to look into an assisted living community for your loved one. Even when you have tried your hardest, a loved one may require more help than you can give.
Healthy habits and self-care
The first step in becoming healthier and happier is to give yourself some caregiver self-care, self-love, and time for stress relief. Stop being so hard on yourself, remind yourself that you are doing the best you can, and your senior loved one appreciates it, even when they cannot show it.
Communicate and ask for help
Too often, a caregiver is afraid to ask for help. But, asking for help will make life easier for you, other family members, and your senior loved one. Even asking another family member to sit with your senior loved one for 20 minutes so you can get some fresh air would be good for you.
Communicate not only your needs but your concerns as well. Often, caregivers miss out on workdays and may even have to quit their jobs to care for their senior loved one. When this happens, money may become an issue. It is vital to discuss financial considerations with your family and even your loved one’s insurance provider.
During your time as a caregiver, you don’t want to lose yourself. Setting boundaries will help you maintain your identity outside of being a caregiver. In the beginning, you may feel guilty taking time for yourself or saying no, but over time it will get easier.
There’s no reason to be rude when listing your boundaries, just remain firm. If you enjoy daily runs or reading a book every evening, continue to do those things. Have someone else step in during your time off. You are not required to do everything alone.
Exercise is one of the best things you can do for your body and mind. It promotes better sleep, fights off tension and depression, and increases energy and alertness. When you exercise daily, even if it’s only for 15 minutes, you maintain your endurance, balance, strength, and flexibility.
While physical exercise should be a part of your daily routine, breathing exercises should be as well. You can lower your stress, anxiety, depression, heart rate, blood pressure, and even chronic pain through breathing exercises.
Stress relief activities
An activity that can benefit both you and your senior loved one is yoga. Often, seniors living in an assisted living community will participate in yoga and other activities through rehabilitation services. Why not include them if they are capable?
Another way to relieve stress is to get yourself involved in creative activities such as music, art, drawing, painting, and writing.
Here at The Kensington Sierra Madre, we run caregiver events that involve creativity, art, as well as wellness activities – such as our yoga series with Carol Hahn.
Eat and sleep well
A well-balanced diet full of fruits, veggies, whole grains, and water will help your body and mind. You’re sure to notice how much better you feel when you stop eating and drinking foods and beverages full of sugar and fats.
Sleeping the recommended 7-8 hours of sleep every night will offer you many benefits as well. Far too often, we become irritable and sick after missing out on sleep. Sleep restores your mind and body, which is what a caregiver needs the most.
Happy caregivers and happy seniors
Being a caregiver is a selfless and overwhelming act of love that may come to an end when your senior needs more help than you can give them. In the meantime, they will also feel the effects of their caregiver’s self-care, health, and happiness, creating the best environment for you to provide them the help that they need.
At The Kensington Sierra Madre, our team understands that you want your senior loved one to live their best life. We ensure that our residents are given opportunities to maintain and restore their health while offering life enrichment activities, and chances to socialize and live happily.
If your senior loved one needs a specialized type of care, such as memory care for Alzheimer’s or dementia, we offer two memory care neighborhoods — Connections and Haven.
These two distinct memory care neighborhoods are beneficial to our residents because the care that we offer is based on the type of support that your loved one needs.
Our Promise is that we provide our residents with the same love and care we would give to our own family. The Kensington Sierra Madre team is made up of trained professionals, but also experts in loving care.
Contact us to find out about how we help our residents and their families.
To learn more about our exceptional assisted living and memory care at The Kensington Sierra Madre, click below or give us a call today for any questions. We promise to love and care for your family, as we do our own.