Family caregivers provide practical help and enhance the quality of life for medically frail seniors who might otherwise require residential care. Typically, they are in the boomer or senior age group.
Their role involves physical, psychological, emotional and financial demands. Burnout is common due to the physical and emotional toll of caring for a loved one who is chronically ill.
If you are a caregiver, consider these strategies for not only surviving, but also thriving this year.
Reduce your stress
- Learn as much as possible about your relative’s illness and its management. Knowledge can reduce anxiety and foster a sense of control.
- Accept realities you can’t change and focus instead on those you can influence.
- Use positive self-talk. Emphasize phrases such as “I can” and “I choose.”
- Practice relaxation techniques, starting with deep breathing.
- Do things that bring inner peace, such as meditating, listening to music or writing in a journal.
- Develop a calming ritual to help you unwind at the end of the day.
- Make healthy lifestyle choices: eat nutritious meals, get adequate rest, exercise and get regular medical check-ups.
- Set priorities and don’t waste time or energy on unimportant things. Simplify necessary tasks and let go of the need for perfection. If finances permit, hire a housekeeper or a companion for your relative to free up some of your time and energy.
- Be flexible about plans and expectations. Take things one day at a time.
- Don’t keep problems to yourself. Seek support from family members, friends, other caregivers or a counsellor.
- Accept offers of help. Ask other family members to share the load and be specific about what’s needed. Also find out about services in your community that can help. Consult the non-profit organization associated with your relative’s disease.
Increase your joy
- Stay connected to people who care.
- Cultivate a healthy sense of humour. Don’t take yourself or others too seriously.
- Do something you enjoy every day. Make it a priority, even if all you can manage sometimes is 15 minutes.
- Put together a pamper kit of items that give you a lift (for example, fragrant candles and gourmet tea) and delve into it when you find your spirits drooping.
- Bring a bit of nature into your home. Get a plant to nurture or buy fresh flowers every month.
- Do something nice for someone who is going through a difficult time. It will bring joy to both of you.
- Create little things to look forward to: a visit with a friend, watching a favourite movie, ordering takeout, buying a book or getting something new to wear.
- Plan a special outing with your relative or a friend, whether it’s going to a restaurant or perhaps a cultural or sporting event.
- Focus on the good things in your life, such as supportive relationships. Learn to live in the moment and enjoy life’s simpler pleasures.
- If you think looking out for your own needs is selfish, remember that you can only take good care of your relative if you take good care of yourself.
Lisa M. Petsche is a registered social worker and a freelance writer specializing in boomer and senior concerns. She has personal and professional experience with elder care.