With all the ongoing news about COVID-19 outbreaks in long-term care facilities, it’s a challenging time for caregivers. There are complex decisions to make about how and where to care for loved ones. Being a family caregiver can be a rewarding experience. But it’s a good time to remember that taking care of yourself matters, too.
Why self-care for caregivers matters
About 1 in 4 Canadians provide caregiving support for a senior in their life, according to Statistics Canada. And three quarters of family caregivers are employed while providing this care.
They need the time to fill their own tank, too, says Jane Vock, Caregiver Program Manager at SE Health. “Self-care is important, because then you’re able to bring your best self to your caregiving relationship and to the rest of your relationships,” Vock says.
As more supports and resources for caregivers become available, we can confidently tell you one thing: there is help. Take advantage of it to make sure you’re healthy and balanced for yourself and your loved one. To get you started, here are five self-care tips from Vock:
- Take care of your future self. Organize your loved one’s legal documents, medical information and other administrative papers for easy access. For example, a hospital visit may require a list of prescriptions, insurance information and any advance directives. Planning helps you feel prepared and creates space to take care of yourself, even during tough situations.
- Seek support from other caregivers. Find a support group or connect online with caregivers like you. “They’re a phenomenal resource that’s often untapped,” Vock says. Other caregivers can help you solve problems or relate to how you’re feeling because they share your experience.
- Reach out for help—and accept it. If other family members or friends can help, let them. But you can also take advantage of services like food delivery, yard maintenance and pharmacy delivery. Consider virtual medical appointments to save travel and waiting time. Apps with features like medication reminders can take the pressure off of you to remember everything.
- Recognize your own hard work. Pause to acknowledge the positive difference you’re making in someone’s life, Vock says. Don’t be hard on yourself if you find your role challenging—it is challenging. Being kind to yourself goes a long way with everyone in your life.
- Seek professional support if you need it. Depression is common among caregivers, Vock says. Monitor your physical and mental health and speak with your doctor or a mental health professional if you’re struggling.
Signs and symptoms of caregiver burnout
Remember to monitor your own health and well-being. This may sound obvious, but it’s important. “Caregivers can be so focused on caring for others that they neglect their own health and well-being,” Vock says. Running through a few questions can help you identify symptoms of burnout:
- Am I feeling more body aches and pains?
- Am I fatigued?
- Do I have more headaches or am I sick more often?
- Have I been eating much more or less than usual?
- Am I feeling more worried or anxious?
- Do I get angry and irritated more easily and often?
- Have I lost interest in things that used to make me happy?
- Have I been isolating myself?
- Do I feel like I’m losing control of my life?
Saying yes to these questions could mean it’s time to seek mental health support.
Caring for the growing number of caregivers
As our population ages, the caregiver numbers will increase, Vock says. We need to take care of the caregivers who take care of so many others. Check out this caregiver guide—it’s a collection of credible resources, tips, suggestions and tools that you can use on your own caregiver journey. For example, you can learn about how to find specialty care practitioners for your loved one. You can also watch helpful videos on caring for seniors. It’s a great resource to bookmark and reference for your caregiving needs. This guide, paired with daily self-care, can help you stay on top of it all.
For more information and support, visit LuminoHealth.ca. Here, you can search for health-care providers, access resources, and more.