Along with the emotional rewards that may come from helping an older family member maintain safe and with a good quality of life, the responsibilities may take a toll on a caretaker’s emotional well-being. A reverse in roles when taking care of an aging parent can be especially difficult.
When you are powerless to turn back the changes that are hard to bear, keep in your mind’s eye that loving your family member is the most valuable aspect of what you are doing.
If the changes experienced by an elder are significant, particularly when cognition is diminishing, it is especially important to have a strategy for keeping yourself emotionally strong and able to be an effective caregiver. Here are some tips for helping you navigate these changing tides as well as caregiver stress:
Accept that things have changed
This will help you to moderate any feelings of anger or resentment. You will need to make adjustments in your life in order to have the time and energy that care-giving requires. Avoid feeling you have to ‘do it all’ or you may risk turning into a martyr.
Create a plan of action for which of your primary responsibilities can be adjusted to take on the commitment to your elder. Keeping your most important personal commitments and following through on your immediate family’s requirements is key to striking a balance. You can revisit this plan as you need to in order to make it work for you.
Prioritize your caregiver responsibilities and tackle what is most important first. Be forgiving of yourself if you don’t get to everything on your to-do list.
Address Your Feelings; Seek Support
Let your spouse and trusted friends know what you are going through and that you will be depending on them to care for and listen to you when you need an outlet. Others around you may view you as supremely capable; just the right person for the job. Those close to you may need to know that you’re under caregiver stress and need your own TLC. Seek professional counseling if you feel an objective listener and adviser is necessary to help you deal with likely feelings of disappointment, anger or even grief. Find a caregiver stress support group in your community. Caregiver Regional Resources
Take Time to Nourish Your Inner Self
Do something that you enjoy doing to give yourself a psychic break: read, listen to music, watch a movie, take a walk or bike ride. Use relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation or visualization. A small investment in quiet time like this can make a significant difference in your outlook.
Ask for Help
If you need a well-deserved break in order to recover some equilibrium, ask someone to cover for you while you take some time away from your responsibilities.
Keep in mind that taking steps to keep physically healthy is an essential underpinning for emotional well-being(See Part I: Tips to Managing Physical Health)
Be realistic about what you can handle. If the demands become greater than you anticipated, or the senior’s health status requires a different type of care, look for the most appropriate alternative for their care.(Download the Guide to Senior Health Care Alternatives)