Former U.S. first lady Rosalynn Carter said, “There are only four kinds of people in the world – those who have been caregivers, those who are currently caregivers, those who will be caregivers and those who will need caregivers.” Everyone, therefore, can benefit from this important guest post by Elissa Goldstein. Elissa is the Director of Development and Communications for the Adler Aphasia Center, a non-profit community center that addresses the long-term needs of people with aphasia, a language disorder caused by stroke or other brain injury.
It’s no surprise that caregivers have a higher level of stress, make more poor health choices, and experience more mental and emotional strain than do non-caregivers. Managing a household, managing their loved one with a long term disability or illness, and managing everyday tasks for two people is usually handled at the expense of a caregiver’s own well-being. Feeling guilty, feeling sad and angry, and feeling frustrated are all normal emotions a caregiver can experience.
So how does a caregiver protect themselves from burnout? Here are some valuable tips:
Take care of your own body. Get the proper rest and exercise to maintain your own strength and stresses. Eat healthier- it keeps your body strong to ward off illnesses.
Take care of your mind. Take a break and treat yourself to something you enjoy. Give yourself permission to do this as often as you can.
Focus on the good. A positive attitude has been proven to impact your physical and mental health. Do a small activity each day that refreshes you. Or think about the rewarding aspects of being a caregiver to the one you love. Keep a list and review it when you are feeling overwhelmed.
Ask for help. No one can do everything for everyone all the time. Get used to asking your friends, your family and your neighbors for help, or consider hiring someone. Or if they offer assistance, say yes.
Recognize signs of stress. If you are too busy to notice you are overwhelmed, then you probably are. Reduce some of the signs—headaches, stomach issues, trouble sleeping, too much sleep, feeling out-of-control, depression and anxiety. Taking care of yourself is not being selfish.
See your family and friends. It’s important to stay connected with those who are important to you. Maintaining supportive relationships is part of being good to yourself. Share your feelings with them.
Join a support group. There’s nothing more comforting than finding people with common experiences and issues. It’s empowering and will help you feel better prepared to cope with your concerns and to feel more hopeful.
Stay organized. Make a realistic schedule with family and friends to get the support you need. It will help you manage the extra demands on your time.
See your doctor. Get your medical check-ups too. With increased demands come extra stress and emotional turmoil.
Love is why caregivers risk their own health and wellbeing. But loving and caring for yourself is one of the most important—and one of the most often forgotten—things you can do as a caregiver. When your needs are taken care of, the person you care for will benefit, too.
More than one million people in the U.S. have been diagnosed with aphasia, a language disorder usually resulting from stroke or a traumatic brain injury. The Adler Aphasia Center is the only post-rehabilitation center in the Metropolitan New York area that addresses the long-term needs of those with aphasia and their caregivers. Aphasia amplifies caregiver issues as the ability to effectively communicate with your loved one is greatly reduced or is not possible with the spoken word. The Center offers caregiver life coaching group sessions on a weekly basis to cope with their unique stresses. Read more about Adler here.