Taking on the task of caregiver for an older or dependent adult can be challenging and stressful. But it can also be rewarding, because knowing you’re enhancing your loved one’s quality of life is a good feeling. However, the burden of providing constant care and assistance for a dependent adult can sometimes seem like too much to handle.
On its own, the responsibility of caring for an older family member is daunting. But add to that the challenges of a job and your own young and growing family, and you have a recipe for self-neglect.
Even if you’re responsible for ensuring the health and safety of another person, you need to look out for yourself as well. Your physical and mental health shouldn’t suffer. It’s impossible to be an effective caregiver if you don’t give yourself a break every once in a while to do the things you love. You could schedule a dinner date with your friends, go for a long walk, or enjoy a spa day.
Here are four ways to maintain your independence and health while caring for a loved one.
Form a Network of Caregivers
Despite taking on the role of caregiver, you don’t have to do it alone. You can reduce your stress and find more time to tend to your own needs when you allow others to step in and assist your loved one with their daily routine.
You can pass off caregiver duties to your sibling for a few hours each day or ask a relative to chip in once a week. It’s vital to discuss the arrangements beforehand and create a schedule, so there’s always coverage. Having the necessary help gives you the freedom and independence to live a full life.
Ideally, your network of caregivers should contribute enough so you can regularly take a day off each week. But there’s also nothing wrong with asking for additional help, when you need or want it.
Take a Day Off Each Week
Many caregivers tend to a parent’s or another older adult’s every need. There’s never a moment they’re not thinking about or caring for their loved one.
However, it’s critical not to let the responsibility consume you. Spending all your time caring for a dependent adult can prevent you from caring for yourself. If you have kids, you also can’t be a present and effective parent.
When your workweek is five or six days, you allow yourself to rest, recharge, and focus on other important things in your life. If you’re caring for a dependent adult, use your network of caregivers so you can take at least one day (or even one night) off every week.
Take an Hour for Yourself Every Day
One hour might not seem like much time to other people, but as a caregiver, it’s everything. Many people who care for someone don’t want to leave their loved one unattended. They might skip showers until their parent goes to sleep or ignore their own hunger to tend to a dependent adult’s needs.
The reality is that you can’t spend every second watching what your loved one does. You must take time for yourself every day, even if it’s only for an hour. Whether you enjoy reading a book, going for a walk, or exercising, spend an hour each day doing something you love.
Stay in Shape
Part of remaining independent and having your own life while caring for someone else means maintaining your good health. You also have to be in adequate physical shape to provide the care your loved one needs. That means you should exercise regularly.
Find a place that works for you, whether it’s the gym, a jog outdoors in the fresh air, or an online fitness video at home. You can use some of your one hour of alone time, or find a more convenient time. Exercising keeps you in shape while boosting your immune system and clearing your mind.
You don’t have to figure it all out alone. Organizations like the Family Caregiver Alliance offer many useful resources about caring for others – and caring for yourself. See Caring for Yourself – Family Caregiver Alliance.
If you’re taking care of a loved one or considering becoming a caregiver, do not hesitate to contact the Law & Mediation Office of Bracha Etengoff in New York at (347) 640-0993. We offer consultations by video, as well as in our Manhattan and Long Island offices. Our dedicated attorney and elder mediator can guide you through the process of caring for a dependent adult, even while you’re managing your own already-full life.