Becoming a caregiver to a family member is both rewarding and challenging. It will no doubt have an impact on the other relationships in your life, making the personal priorities fall to the back burner. While we may tell ourselves, this type of caregiving is only temporary, it often turns into much longer months or even years. You must take care of yourself while you take care of a family member, and that self-care includes nurturing the most important relationships in your life. Here are a few tips on doing just that…
Take Care of Your Marriage
Any marriage requires love and attention to stay healthy, so you must find the time to pour into yourself, your spouse, and the things that hold you together. Studies show us that marriages can suffer when one spouse is a caregiver to a family member. Whether it’s substance abuse or other addictions, depression/anxiety, or even health challenges, marriages can fall victim to many challenges when you aren’t taking the time to nurture it properly.
- Be sure to communicate openly and often!
- Find ways to express your love language, such as notes or flowers.
- Make time for a date night, even if it doesn’t involve leaving the house.
- Take time to LISTEN to what your spouse has to say.
These simple tips can help maintain and even preserve a marriage! Keep in mind that you are a team and being a caregiver for a family member who needs you often requires a team approach. Be each other’s best support!
Maintaining Your Relationship with Your Children
You may have heard the term “sandwich generation.” It refers to people who are both caretakers for their children as well as elderly parents. This role can also include financial care, which can put a lot of stress on a family. Emotional support is critical to maintaining the care needed in both scenarios.
There is a way to take care of yourself while caring for parents and adult children! Here are a few tips….
- Explain to your children what is required of you as a caretaker.
- For younger children, explain that the senior generation will need help or assistance much more often and how they can be a part of that assistance.
- Ask your children to help. You may be surprised to find that adult children or even younger kids WANT to help, which will ease the burden on you!
- Find things your elderly parents and grandchildren can enjoy together. This may depend on the age of the kids, but card games, board games, puzzles, word games, etc.…these are all ways to spend time together while keeping the brain engaged.
Maintaining Your Friendships as a Caregiver
There is no doubt that caregiving will demand more of your time and this may affect your personal friendships. Sometimes the caregiving duty will take priority over a lunch date or even a phone chat, and you may find yourself feeling like you have nothing left to pour into friendships after taking care of your parents all day. If you find this happening, communicating with your friends is the best policy. Let them know what your challenges are and ask for their support. Finding ways to spend time together will give you a chance to talk. Perhaps you could go workout at the gym or take a walk while you chat. You need healthy friendships in order to maintain your own sanity as a caregiver! Most friends will do anything to help if you will just tell them what you need.
Don’t Go it Alone
Remember—we are not meant to go it alone in life! No matter what stage of the game of caregiving you are in, you will need help, support, and understanding. Everyone we have mentioned in this article is part of your support system, so reach out when you need to!
Also, always remember that it is a healthy thing to set boundaries so that you can care for yourself. Burnout is by far the biggest risk for caregivers, so finding ways to nurture the things that are important to you is the absolute healthiest thing you can do to avoid burnout.
Finally, don’t be afraid to allow professionals to come in and take over the caregiving role for your parents when you need a break. Even just one day a week could allow you to refresh and recharge so you can feel good about the rest of the time you are providing care for your loved one! Even if you are met with resistance about bringing in help, remember that they will be fine and it’s important for everyone involved to find balance.
For more information on taking care of yourself while caring for elderly family members, please contact us today!