If you are a new family caregiver providing support for a senior loved one, you probably have a multitude of questions. It’s a big responsibility that often leaves family members feeling doubtful, anxious, and even guilty that they aren’t doing a very good job.
Here, we answer a few of the most common questions new caregivers have.
Q: Caregiving is stressful. What can caregivers do to better cope with caregiver stress?
A: The first suggestion we give to new family caregivers is to not be too hard on themselves. Caregivers often have unrealistically high expectations for how much they can get done in a day. It can easily set them up for failure.
Here are a few other suggestions for managing caregiver stress:
- Master deep breathing. Practicing 10 minutes of yoga stretches in the morning or meditating at lunchtime can help.
- Don’t isolate yourself—stay in contact with friends and loved ones.
- Take a warm bath in lavender Epsom salts while playing soft music.
- Take a short walk around the block or on the treadmill.
- Maintain a journal where you work through your thoughts and fears about caregiving.
Q: How do caregivers juggle so many responsibilities?
A: Juggling multiple responsibilities is one of the challenges caregivers cite most often. Between 13 and 22 percent of family caregivers are also employed, and some have children of their own still living at home. Juggling so many responsibilities is difficult.
Family caregivers often find that establishing a weekly routine helps to reduce anxiety for the caregiver and the senior. It also helps to identify times during the week when you are likely to need additional help from a family member, friend, or neighbor so you can plan ahead.
Because caring for a senior loved one is emotionally and physically exhausting, it also helps to learn what convenience services are available in your area. Services such as home-delivered meals, pharmacies that deliver, grocery stores that offer online ordering, and online bill-paying can be timesavers.
Q: Caregivers have been known to refuse help when it is offered. Why is asking for and accepting help so important?
A: This sentiment is one expressed by many people who assume the role of family caregiver. Many feel duty-bound to handle all of their loved one’s needs alone. Others worry that turning tasks over to someone might mean their senior family member doesn’t get the quality of care they deserve.
If you feel guilty asking for or accepting help, remind yourself it is the best way to continue to be a good caregiver over the long term. Also remember that if don’t accept help, you are more likely to experience a health crisis of your own.
Many people receive advice and companionship in caregiver support groups, held by local government groups and senior living communities. These can allow you to develop new friendships, share feelings, and learn from others who are walking a similar path.
Q: What is respite care?
A: Respite care is a type of care designed to allow family caregivers to take time out from caregiving. Home care agencies and senior living communities are two types of senior care providers that offer respite services.
Assisted living respite guests receive the same care and support as long-term residents. They enjoy well-balanced meals in the dining room and have many opportunities to participate in life enrichment and wellness activities. Family caregivers, meanwhile, gain peace of mind knowing their senior loved one is well-cared-for while they take a break to rest and restore.
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