Caring for someone else is important work. Whether it is paid or unpaid, it’s very difficult work.
Family caregivers put everyone else’s’ needs before their own. This is a perfect recipe for burnout. It is important to understand that caring for yourself is NOT being selfish!
You need to keep your self physically and mentally strong so you can be the reliable, resilient caregiver for those that need you.
We know caregivers don’t have a lot of time – and that what time they do have, they are unlikely to use on themselves. So we threw together 10 caregiver tips for work caregiving balance and put them here in a quick reference list for you right here.
For the best 10 tips on looking after yourself so you can continue to look after others, read on!
10 Caregiver Tips to Achieve a Work and Caregiving Balance
Caregivers provide care and support to a relative or friend who has care needs. The needs may be the result of disability, mental illness, old age, terminal illness, and other reasons. They can be any age and can be trained or untrained. Carers can provide care from a few hours a week up to 24-hours, 7 days a week as a live-in carer.
Most caregivers are female, and most combine paid employment with unpaid caregiving. It can be difficult work, physically, mentally and emotionally. That’s why it is so important our caregivers take care of themselves, too.
So without further delay, here are our self-care tips for family caregivers!
1. Positive Journalling
Find 5 minutes every night to write down three things you did well that day. As a caregiver, we always want to do more, give more. Those feelings of guilt can eat you away over time.
Take some time out each day to acknowledge what you did well by conscious, positive journaling. It has been shown to be an effective way to build self-esteem and increase feelings of optimism and positivity.
Empowerment author and LinkedIn COO Sheryl Sandberg uses this very trick daily trick to get over imposter syndrome!
2. Save for a Vacation
Open a savings account that is for treats and vacations only. Put away 5% – 10% every week that’s just for you. And make sure you clear it out every 6 months – but only spending on yourself, as intended!
A good way to keep yourself honest with it is to tell a trusted friend or family member about your savings plan. Have them check in on you to make sure you are saving – and spending it on yourself! You might inspire them into action, too!
3. Schedule Breaks and Respite
Schedule rest breaks throughout the day for coffee, tea, or just a breather. It is easy to drift from one job to the next in your caregiving and get to the end of the day without a rest.
Some family caregivers swear by reminder apps. You can download one onto your phone, and it will vibrate or sound at intervals you can set. Then it’s time for a minute of deep breathing, or whatever it is that relaxes you.
4. Get a Medical Check-up
We know you are in and out of medical clinics every other week. But that is for someone else. When is the last time you played patient?
Once you are in the appointment, talk to the doctor about any physical or mental health concerns you might have. It doesn’t matter how big or small the issue, let the doctor advise you on that. Use this time to prevent ill-health and care for yourself.
5. Book a Regular Massage
A body massage is a fabulous way to check in with your body. You can relax, breathe, and notice all the cricks or pains that you’ve been ignoring. Your body is the tool that supports someone else all day, you need to take care of it.
Time goes by so quickly it is easy to forget how long it has been since you last made a massage appointment. We recommend you have a recurring appointment scheduled each month.
If you feel uncomfortable getting a massage, facials, manicures, and pedicures will have the same effect.
You are investing in your health!
6. Let Technology Help
You’ve been doing this so long largely on your own – why not get some advice about medical devices and technologies that can make caregiving easier?
From webcam intercoms to electric bed hoists, vitals monitors, grip railings, lifts, there is no shortage of technology to help.
You might even find a government scheme or other way to fund the technology by talking to a nearby health and community center.
7. Link into an Occupational Therapist (OT)
If you were doing any other sort of formal work, we bet you’d have put more thought into Occupational Health and Safety. Perhaps it’s time to have an occupational therapist (OT) review your work conditions.
They can observe your day-to-day caregiving activities and make some recommendations on how to conduct the work putting less stress on your body. They may have some recommendations on simple installations to save you time, effort – or your lower-back!
An OT is also likely to be up-to-date on the best schemes to help you pay for such installations.
8. Join Caregiver Support Groups
Reach out to carer support groups – from outings and activities to group therapy, you’ll find the caregiver group that fits your life and interests. Find an organization in your area – or an online chat community if you prefer – and get connected!
Caregiving can be a lonely, thankless business at times. You’ll be amazed at just how many others are out there are there or have been there before.
You can share tips and advice, and just generally benefit from a sense of social connectedness and understanding.
9. Get Walking
Make sure every week you carve out some time for exercise. It needn’t be a CrossFit membership – you can walk to the shops, join an evening Pilates class, or take a jog around the block at lunch if that’s your style.
Ask someone to take on the caregiving responsibilities for just an hour or so a week – hardly a big ask when we are talking about your physical and mental health! Prioritize exercise and good health, because this is where you keep your body strong enough for the caregiving work you do day in, day out.
10. Be Assertive
It is vital you seek the help and support you need in caregiving, and for yourself, in a timely way. Don’t suffer in silence. Speak up to medical professionals about you and your loved one’s needs.
Ask for help clearly and assertively. Noone can read your mind. You are not asking for more than is appropriate.
Now: Go Get Self-Caring!
That’s the ten caregiver tips done: which ones will work best for your caregiving situation?
Why not make a list right now of the ones you know you can commit to – put them in the calendar to make it official.