Many people choose caregiving as an occupation for professional reasons. They’re aware of the job’s challenges and get many years of education and training to make sure they’re fit for the job. And they get financial rewards for providing caregiving service.
But things are different when it comes to family caregiving.
Most family caregivers have to be there for their loved ones without formal healthcare education and training. These caregivers usually find themselves in situations where they are generally unprepared to provide full-time care to a family member or a friend who needs support. They step up to the responsibilities anyway.
According to the National Alliance for Caregiving, 29% of all US adults are caregivers for their relatives in one way or another. These individuals provide service without any financial compensation and even forget to care for their own selves.
Why do family caregivers need self-care
Family caregiving comes with a lot of challenges, and many caregivers end up compromising their own physical, mental, and emotional health to provide care for their loved ones. They often forget that it is vital for them to care for themselves, to be able to provide better care for the care recipients.
Let’s take a look at the hardships family caregivers face and how they can care for themselves.
- Loss of time and resources: Family caregiving can end up being costly in terms of time and money for the caregiver. Many caregivers end up losing a lot of income over their lifetime because they’re occupied supporting a loved one instead of focusing on their careers. You may even be financially more burdened if the care recipient is in a weak financial position to pay for their own expenses.
- Strain on physical and mental health: From living a normal life to suddenly being responsible for someone is undoubtedly challenging. Providing 24/7 care is physically and mentally demanding. As a caregiver, you put your loved one’s needs above your own and forget to care for yourself. It can be draining, stressful, and exhaustive. In the long-run, it can take a toll on your physical and mental health.
- Sleep deprivation and depression: It is common for family caregivers to spend the time meant for sleep to care for their loved ones. Sleeplessness and continuously changing sleep cycles can deteriorate their health. The lack of self-care can put them at a high risk of depression.
How to care for yourself as a family caregiver
It is imperative to understand that providing proper care to your loved one is only possible if you care for yourself in the first place. This may seem like selfishness, but it is crucial for you and the care recipient in the long-run.
Here’re some self-care tips for family caregivers.
- Take time out for yourself: It doesn’t have to be a month-long vacation, but planning out your day and giving yourself a little bit of downtime where you can do something to relax is essential. Your mind and body need to recuperate, which is good for your health and can help you provide quality care.
- Don’t isolate yourself: It’s easy to forget yourself and live entirely for someone dependent on you. Caregiving is a rewarding experience, but if it becomes the primary goal of your life, you may lose yourself entirely. You may feel lonely, helpless, and depressed at times. To avoid such situations, be sure to spend time on your hobbies and socializing with your friends.
- Seek help: As a caregiver, you know your responsibilities often overwhelm your energy, so much so that you end up feeling hopeless, emotionally drained, lonely, and desperate. Remember that not talking about your problems can bottle up your feelings, which can be far more dangerous because it can lead you to resent yourself and the care recipient. Getting timely help can save you from severe emotional and mental health issues.
It’s essential to be mindful and know when things start to get too much to handle during your caregiving journey. Talking to someone who relates can help you work through your hardships very quickly. Sometimes all one needs is someone who listens. Discussing your difficulties and challenges with your family members and friends can help you cope with the circumstances.
It is also a good idea to seek help from online support groups for family caregivers. One of the leading platforms that provide support for caregivers is ExtendaTouch. This online helpline connects family caregivers so that they can help each other by providing emotional support and sharing helpful information and advice.