Did you know caregivers are more at-risk for stress-related illnesses, such as depression, anxiety, heart disease and stroke? Ignoring their own needs, many caregivers are so focused on caring for an older loved one that they put themselves last.
“I tell caregivers ‘Go along to get along,’” said Lynda Gridley, a speech-language pathologist at Baptist AgeWell Center for Health who provides strategies for caring for loved ones with cognitive issues like dementia. “Resist the urge to challenge what they are saying and that will help relieve frustration.”
Here are some more tips to become a stronger and healthier caregiver.
Let go of the guilt. Caregivers often feel guilty when they take time for themselves, but you can’t care for an older loved one if you are neglecting your own care. Find a healthy activity you love – whether it’s going for a walk, reading, working on a project or gardening, and promise yourself you will take 30 minutes each day for an activity that brings you joy.
Try to get more sleep. Even if it’s just 15 or 30 minutes a night, try to get more rest. Exhaustion wreaks havoc with your emotions, so if you aren’t getting enough sleep, you are setting yourself up for frustration.
Don’t argue. Especially in situations where there are memory issues, don’t try to argue your point even if the person you are caring for is wrong. Instead, try to refocus the person on something else by changing the subject.
Don’t take things personally. This bit of advice actually works in many areas of life, not just with caregiving. People you are caring for may lash out in frustration, but try to remember they are not angry with you, but with their situation.
Keep things in perspective. When you are in the midst of caregiving, it may seem like it will never end, but of course, there will come a time when it will. Keep the big picture in mind.