According to the Family Caregiver Alliance and National Center for Caregiving, approximately 43.5 million caregivers have provided unpaid care to an adult or child in the last 12 months. This may be physical, emotional or mental support for a special needs child, as we see often in our field. Caregivers, however, often forget to care for the person who may need it the most – themselves.
Caring for a loved one, whether it is a close friend or a family member can be exhausting and emotionally and physically draining. The sleep deprivation, worry, stress, and poor eating habits because you are focused on caring for someone you love can cause you to become ill yourself. How ironic, isn’t it?
Here are ten New Year’s Resolutions to try this year if you are a caregiver.
- Accept Help – We know that no one does it quite like you do- but accept help whenever you can and do it without guilt. Be prepared with a list of ways that others can help you, and let the helper choose what he or she would like to do.
- Join a Support Group. There are millions of caregivers all over this country who know what you are going through and the stress that you feel. Talking is excellent therapy and a stress reducer.
- Do What You Can. You can not do everything without sending yourself to the hospital. Dole out jobs that may seem small but anything to take the burden and responsibilities off of you the better.
- Set a Routine. Everyone loves routine. Setting one can help your family member understand what is coming next and aid in transitions.
- Visit the Doctor. You probably have several doctor or therapy sessions for the person you are caring for, but, also, take care of yourself. Don’t skip your own appointments or self diagnose an illness.
- Connect Socially. Getting out as a caregiver might seem like a huge luxury but even connecting on social media may help.
- Recognize your Limitations. Everyone has a breaking point. Yours may be not getting enough sleep or not having enough help. Talk to other family members about your limitations and be honest.
Learn about the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). If employed, take advantage of the Family and Medical Leave Act. This act requires employers with 50 or more employees to provide up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave for employees who need time off to care for a seriously ill family member.
Get Outdoors. Even if it’s only a few minutes the fresh air and new perspective can do a world of good. If you have time, take a walk to keep yourself healthy.
- Get Sleep. Strive for a minimum of seven to eight hours of consecutive sleep in a 24-hour period. Nap when your loved one naps.