Caring for seniors can be both enjoyable and deeply exhausting. Most people who have stepped forward to care for those in need have found themselves overwhelmed at some point. It’s as demanding as it is rewarding, and caregiver burnout is a real risk.
Why do caregivers experience stress?
There are many kinds of work that we consider stressful, but caregiving can be especially demanding as it can create mental, emotional, and physical strain. Caregivers are often called upon to carry out their tasks while also offering emotional support to those in their care. That places them at special risk of burnout as they can tire in multiple ways. Taking care of oneself and creating healthy situations are both important to carrying out this type of work with as little stress as possible.
10 ways to reduce caregiver stress:
1. Get enough rest
One of the easiest ways to keep stress to a minimum in any job is to simply ensure that you are getting enough rest to handle what’s needed of you every day, both physically and mentally. Getting enough sleep can also help you manage other good habits that will keep you healthy, so it’s a great place to start.
2. Stay healthy
Are you minding your own health while you care for that of others? Don’t forget to take care of yourself too. This means making and keeping your own medical appointments, eating well, and finding ways to stay active.
3. Take care of your own needs
While caring for others takes great heart, it’s important to keep your own needs in perspective. You can still offer caring support to others, while keeping your own commitments. Don’t skip your own appointments or carve away from your personal time to continuously be there for others. It’s not sustainable. Care for yourself first, so you can do more for others.
4. Create a support network
Who do you turn to when times are difficult or life is stressful? Do you have a support network you can lean on? Creating a network of friends and family you can rely on is important, so take the time to nurture these relationships. Seek out community where you can find it – at home, in your neighbourhood, online, or in places of worship.
5. Lean on others
Once you create your support network, make sure you use it. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, or to reach out when you need some support. Too often people are afraid to admit they are struggling, but being alone is rarely the answer. Build these relationships, but then be open to leaning on people. You may find you can offer as much support as you receive.
6. Advocate for yourself
If you are pulled to care for others, you also need to have the ability to advocate for yourself on occasion. Consider what you can offer for time and support, look for ways to give it that work well for you, and allow you to stay happy and healthy in your own life. If a situation isn’t working for you, address it in a calm and constructive manner. There is no honour in burnout – a simple conversation or request could save you from situations becoming stressful or a poor fit for you.
7. Keep learning
We learn more about health and aging every day, as well as how to care for others in safe and healthy ways. Look for ways to learn more about how your work can be safer, more efficient, less stressful and take part in conversations that can move practices forward. Are there safer ways to do the physical parts of your job? More efficient ways to share a workload? Keep an open mind and know that change can be a good thing.
8. Collaborate and cooperate
In small ways, and occasionally in more significant ways, help from others will be both welcome and necessary. The sooner you can relax into a healthy rhythm of both offering, and accepting help, the more smoothly your caregiving is likely to go. Small gestures of cooperation can go a long way.
9. Know your strengths – and your limits
How much time can you spend caregiving and still manage your own life and responsibilities? What are your physical abilities and limitations? What are your strengths and greatest gifts? Match your best offerings to the role you are taking on, and you’ll likely feel more satisfied. Some people can offer physical strength and do the heavy lifting, others possess compassion and patience. Both have value – offer what you can honestly give.
10. Take time off when needed
There will be days you need a break. You may become ill, you may have an immediate family member who needs your attention, or you simply may realize you are due for a holiday so you can come back to your work refreshed. Take the time you need, book it and keep it. We can give more when we ourselves are healthy and happy.
While caregiving will always be a demanding role, there are ways to mitigate the strain it can put on your mind and body, allowing your work to be safer and more enjoyable. When you take care of the rest of your life, and yourself, you can offer more to those in your care without experiencing burnout or unhealthy stress. Care for yourself first, and you may be surprised at how well you can care for others afterwards.
Have questions or feedback on what you just read? Please don’t hesitate to contact us, we’d love to chat with you.
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~ Senior Homecare by Angels Calgary team