How Caregivers Can Have a Better Quality of Life
As the population ages, an increasing amount of care is being provided by people who aren’t healthcare professionals. Informal caregivers provide 80 percent of long-term care in the United States. However, these informal caregivers often don’t identify themselves as caregivers. Thus, they become the victims of self-neglect (a common side effect of caregiving). Caregiving is a demanding and emotionally draining field, and those involved in it need to make sure they give themselves enough self-care to sustain this lifestyle. Here are some ways how:
Recognize Your Role As A Caregiver
This is especially important for new caregivers or those who have suddenly been forced to take on caregiving. Recognizing your new role as a caregiver is the first step to improving your quality of life. Very often, stress is caused because you want things to be a certain way, but they are not. The first thing you need to accept fully is that change comes alongside the decision to provide care. Depending on the level of care, there may be dramatic changes to your lifestyle or very small, negligible ones. Whatever the case may be, it is vital that you accept and embrace that there will be some change to your regular lifestyle.
Take Care of Yourself
In the process of giving care, caregivers often tend to neglect something very important — themselves. As a care provider, you need to make sure that you are taken care of, so that you can provide quality care. One of the side-effects of caregiving is compassion fatigue, where “a caregiver or worker gives so much of themselves, to the point of taking the stress into their personal lives, generally not taking care of their own needs, and ultimately leading to the burned-out state of no longer caring.” In this way, it’s very easy to lose yourself when you are constantly attending to the needs of others.
It is vital to prevent reaching this state by taking the appropriate measures to do so. One way to do this is to religiously follow a strict self-care regime that will leave you feeling empowered rather than exhausted. Case Western Reserve University suggests self-care ideas like yoga, exercising and mindfulness that are quite easy to incorporate into even a busy daily routine. Additionally, it is integral to make sure you are eating right, sleeping well, and taking a break from caregiving every once in a while. Basically, a self-care regime should involve making time to do whatever makes you mentally and emotionally happy. It also makes sure that you do not to neglect your physical health and well-being.
Consider Digital Integration
Caregiving comes with a variety of different duties. It ranges from remembering to administer your patient’s medication on time, to regular exercise times. There’s a lot of things caregivers must remember. This overload on top of an already existing daily routine is hard to manage without the appropriate organization tools. Thankfully, in today’s world, digital integration into almost all aspects of our lives has made it easy to get organized and access information at the click of a button. In fact, in the healthcare industry itself, technology is enabling providers and caregivers to promote healthy lifestyles in a quick and easy manner. For example, using a health app to set reminders or a fitness tracker to monitor daily fitness are ways to simplify otherwise manual activities for you as a caregiver.
Statistics show that 96 percent of health app users believe that such apps help improve their quality of life. Whether it is for your patient or you yourself, integrating new technology into your caregiving routine will help you automate the process and relieve the mental burden of having to remember and cater to your patient’s (and your own) many needs.
Admit You May Need Help
At some point, caregiving can become so overwhelming that you may need a hand or two to help out. Stop feeling guilty and stressed out all the time. Recognize that caregiving is a difficult task. Accept that sometimes you may not be able to do it on your own (nor do you have to).
Be prepared with a list of things that others can do to help you — this could be anything from small everyday tasks like feeding a pet, to more complex tasks that require an experienced professional. Don’t feel ashamed to ask for help, and graciously accept it when it is given. Even the tiniest amount of assistance can help take a huge load off. It gives you some down time to relax and recharge, in turn improving your lifestyle.
While caregiving can be extremely rewarding, it does come with its fair share of stresses.
Keeping these things in mind will lessen the anxiety that often accompanies caregiving and allow for you to have a better quality of life as a caregiver.
Avery T. Phillips is a freelance human being with too much to say. She loves nature and examining human interactions with the world. Comment or tweet her @a_taylorian with any questions or suggestions.