Most people are thrown into caregiving without much training or notification. We are expected to care for our loved ones as if this comes naturally to us. The truth is most people are unprepared for the constant strains that caring for another adult brings. Some of the most common stressors in caregiving are a lack of preparation, insufficient knowledge and understanding of the disease, and an inability to ask for and accept help.
You have probably heard the question, “Are you taking care of yourself?” When you are busy taking care of your loved one, who is taking care of you? Think about it this way – when you are on an airplane, and the attendants are going through the “in the event we lose cabin pressure” protocol, whose mask are you supposed to put on first? Yours.
Caring for a loved one is a lot like losing air pressure. We begin losing oxygen and are then unable to provide care for our loved ones. Studies have shown that a high number of informal family caregivers become secondary patients. That is, they will develop illnesses and physical ailments that impede their ability to provide care, with a full 63% higher mortality rate than their non-caregiving counterparts.
So what can you do to avoid this? Below are some simple things that you can do to take care of you:
- Gather information and get organized. Local organizations exist to help you along the way.
- Exercise, take a walk, or some physical activity you enjoy.
- Take the quiet moments, after your loved one has gone to sleep or before they wake to focus on you. Read a book, listen to music, anything that calms you.
- Ask for and accept help.
Remember, the most crucial part of caring for a loved one is that you remain healthy and happy during the journey.