7 Empowering Tips for Caregivers
Caregivers are necessary and courageous in the face of life-altering circumstances. Especially during these trying times, the need for caregivers is particularly crucial as health and wellness crises affect our community’s most vulnerable — children, the elderly, the disabled, and those who live with chronic illnesses.
An estimated 53 million American adults were unpaid caregivers in 2020, according to the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP Public Policy Institute. About 89% were caregivers for someone related to them and about half of those cared for a parent. Paid or unpaid, aiding with the daily living, medical, and/or emotional needs of individuals unable to fully care for themselves is vital to their support.
Untrained caregivers are confronted with a myriad of challenges. First and foremost, maintaining their own well-being while tending to their loved ones without a support network is incredibly difficult. Furthermore, caregivers often face physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion, resulting in feeling isolated and unvalued.
Caring for others without the information or support needed to withstand the challenges they face aligns with the need for Caregivers to take care of themselves when caring for others. Burnout sets in once the stress and burden of caring becomes overwhelming, unfortunately.
The good news is that it IS possible to manage and even reverse caregiver burnout by developing healthy self-care habits also helps you sidestep more dangerous coping mechanisms. In fact, caregivers have an increased likelihood of abusing drugs and alcohol. Therefore, you must have a plan in place that ensures your caregiving journey is sustainable by minimizing stress and anxiety.
The need to support caregivers is a growing concern. Most people will become a caregiver in some capacity during their lifetime. For example, nearly 50 million people worldwide suffer from Alzheimer’s and other dementias alone, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. These individuals will likely need someone to care for them and that’s just one chronic illness among many conditions and illnesses requiring caregiving.
How to Caregive From a Place of Strength
1. Learn as much as possible about your loved one’s illness. Get involved with organizations related to their condition. The more you know about it the easier it will be to find resources and support for you and those in your care.
2. Don’t carry the burden alone. Seek help. Build a care team to share tasks, information and coordinate care. Ask family members, friends, associates, and your community to support you and your loved one. Consider their strengths and weaknesses, so the ask is within their capacity. Be specific and clear when asking others for help and/or support.
3. Develop a care plan, including backup contingencies and loop in your team. Ask your support network for input and help. Their contributions will be invaluable to you.
4. Use a web-based care plan calendar. There are several free, online care plan calendars that families can use to build their care teams. Sharing the information digitally gives others access and helps to hold them accountable to their commitments.
5. Be specific and clear about your needs when people offer to help. This is particularly important when using a calendar to formalize your care plan. Scheduling those items, marking them as complete, and noting when issues or concerns occur is ideal.
6. Stay in tune with your wellbeing. Always pay attention to your feelings. Do you need to recharge? Are you feeling isolated? Incorporate breaks into your care plan and make time to keep your emotions and overall health on solid ground.
7. Relieve stress and anxiety by developing a self-care strategy utilizing the following:
- Exercise and eat a healthy diet
- Practice deep breathing, mindfulness, and getting plenty of sleep
- Laugh and spend time with family and friends
- Journal, cuddle, and listen to soothing music
- After researching and speaking with your doctor, consider these supplements: lemon balm, ashwagandha, green tea, valerian root, and kava kava.
- Use restorative essential oils like lavender, rose, vetiver, bergamot, roman chamomile, neroli, frankincense, sandalwood, ylang ylang, orange or orange blossom, and geranium
You can find more resources and information from the following organizations:
- AgingCare.com Caregiver Support
- Caregiver Action Network
- Family Caregiver Alliance
- Lotsa Helping Hands
- Next Step in Care