Caring for an elderly family member can be extremely rewarding. For the recipient of the care, it provides the opportunity to share life experiences with someone close, deepening the familial relationship while receiving personalized care and attention. However, the family caregiver benefits from the relationship as well. The time spent with a loved one is beneficial for the family caregiver because it affords precious time together and the opportunity to forge a closer relationship. As you care for a loved one, you gain a deeper understanding of that person as well as greater patience in dealing with challenges. You’ll be stretched emotionally and physically in ways that lead to profound personal growth. However, there’s no doubt that all that stretching can be stressful.
The challenges associated with being a family caregiver are also numerous, and it’s important to learn how to manage the stress of family caregiving so that you don’t break. Taking time out for self-care is crucial because if the family caregiver buckles under the weight of caregiving stress, the results can be detrimental for all involved. Let’s look at some ways to relieve some of the pressure you may feel while caring for a family member.
1. Know how to set boundaries. It’s important to acknowledge that there’s only so much you can do, and only so much that’s within your control. If you are one of several family members but you are the one with the most caregiving responsibility, make sure your family understands your limitations. Further, recognize that you cannot control another person’s thoughts, feelings, or behavior. Empathy is good but feeling guilty because of someone else’s response to your care is not beneficial. Strive to maintain positivity, even in tough circumstances, by focusing on the good and knowing there’s rest ahead of you.
2. Acknowledge the physical demands of the job. Caring for an older adult can be extremely physically demanding. As you assist with bathing, dressing, and toileting needs, lift, or turn your loved one, and provide first aid, medical assistance, and a safe physical environment, you may find yourself overly taxed by the responsibilities. Managing the behavior of a person with cognitive behavior can be physically challenging. To cope with these demands, get the training you need so that you’ll know how to properly care for your family member. Make sure that, just as you’re tending to your loved one’s physical needs, you’re also paying attention to yours. Eat a healthy diet, get enough sleep, and exercise regularly. Make use of adaptive or assistive equipment for specific needs and strive to help your loved one remain as independent as possible. When there are tasks you physically cannot manage, enlist the help of another person or a home care agency.
3. Be clear about the financial realities of caring for an elderly person. Taking care of an older person can get expensive. There’s the cost of medical care, treatment, adaptive or assistive equipment, and hiring help when needed. What’s more, a family caregiver may have to reduce work hours and give up income in order to be available for their loved one. Caring for a family member also means managing that person’s financial concerns and preparing for the financial needs of the future. Be realistic about the financial challenges involved in caregiving, enlisting the help of financial planning specialists if necessary. Educate yourself on programs that can help by assisting with costs or providing equipment and assistive technology and use these programs when you need to. Talk to other family members about financial needs and consider getting long-term care insurance.
4. Communicate honestly about the emotional stress of caregiving. It’s easy to feel isolated and alone when you’re caring for an elderly person. Be careful not to let yourself slip into detrimental ways of thinking or give in to negative emotions. Don’t engage in worry, asking “why” questions about your situation, but rather practice concern, looking at the “what” and “how” questions so you can determine what’s within your power to change. Recognize that difficulties are temporary and hard times will pass so you can avoid giving into depression. Don’t imagine the worst-case scenarios of every situation, but instead try to remain grounded and consider realistic outcomes. If you begin to feel overwhelmed, talk to someone about what’s troubling you before it has the chance to make you resentful or depressed.
5. Learn how to manage the relationship stress that comes with caring for a relative. The normal patterns of familial relationships can be disrupted when an elderly relative needs care. You may have disagreements with other family members about how things are handled, and you may find yourself in conflict with the very person you’re trying to help. Caregiving can also take time you’re accustomed to spending on other relationships and can cause difficulties with your spouse. Find positive, uplifting experiences you can have with your loved one and take the time to nurture other family relationships. Keep the lines of communication open, involving the care recipient as much as possible in deciding his or her own care, and expressing needs and issues clearly to your other family members.
6. Take some time for self-care. Whether it’s a walk, a bath, or time to read a book, it’s important to carve out alone time to help manage your stress. Spend time with people you enjoy, doing things that make you happy. Investing this time in yourself and your own wellbeing will make you a better caregiver and help you manage caregiving stress.
7. Don’t shy away from asking for help. Managing the stress of family caregiving is much harder if you’re trying to do everything on your own. Enlist the help of family members so that you can get a break or engage a professional caregiver to provide you with support. Take advantage of respite care so that you can be refreshed and renewed, ready to dive back into the ultimately rewarding work of caring for someone you love.
At BrightStar Care of Fairfax, we know that caring for an elderly relative can be challenging. That’s why we work hard to deliver the right care for your loved one and to be a partner you can turn to for support. Because we believe that caring is more than just a job, our nurses, CNAs, and caregivers offer the most professional compassionate care available. In the comforting, familiar surroundings of home, we offer a full range of care services to meet your loved one’s needs and help you when you need it most. Contact us or call (703)267-2380 to learn more about our services and let us know what we can do for you.