As caregivers, we face unexpected challenges pretty much every day as we navigate problems and frustrations of our own, as well as those of the person in our care. Sometimes it can become too much.
Most often, we feel overwhelmed by our caregiving role when things don’t go to plan. As such, it is important to have a plan of action in place for these circumstances so that we can avoid a small complication becoming a bigger issue. Other times, caregiving can become too much when we get stuck in the daily rut. There are certain things that we can do to try to minimise the chances of either of these situations occurring. The following tips may help.
1. Keep Calm & Express Appreciation
As the primary caregiver for an elderly loved one or spouse, we are responsible for keeping everything together. In many cases we do this on top of our regular job, which means scheduling caregiving tasks before and after working hours. Our evenings and weekends quickly fill up with our caregiving duties, which means less time with our spouse, children and friends, and less time to do the activities that we enjoy. This can significantly affect our mood and impact our relationships.
With such a hectic lifestyle, many carers already feel stressed a lot of the time. As such, when something goes wrong, it is easy for even the most level-headed caregiver to be thrown off, or to snap or lash out. Rather than snapping at the situation, try to take a step back from it and take emotion out of the equation. Instead of being angry or looking for someone to blame for what went wrong, try to work out an action plan as to how to fix it. In addition, when things are not going to plan, try to think about the things that have gone well in the day and express appreciation for them. For example, maybe you saw something interesting on a drive, or you heard a good song on the radio, or perhaps you got to spend time with someone that you care about. Make it a habit each day to list 1 or 2 things that you are thankful for, rather than focusing on what went wrong.
2. Don’t Self-Sacrifice
All too often, caregivers sacrifice their own needs in order to look after the person in their care. This can result in health problems for the carer, such as headaches, stomach aches, problems with sleep, and in extreme cases, depression. It is critically important that caregivers ensure they are looking after themselves, as well as the person they are caring for. This means looking after our own health and ensuring you are making and attending medical appointments for ourselves when feeling down or unwell. It is also important for carers to try to take time for themselves. Caregivers often benefit from activities involving spirituality and mindfulness. If this is of interest to you, try to incorporate it into your daily routine. Also, try to make time for activities that you enjoy, such as spending time with a partner or socialising with friends. It’s important that we try to maintain these relationships in our lives, as isolating ourselves often results in loneliness and negative thoughts for caregivers.
3. Organise Family Activities that Encourage Socialisation
Scheduling regular family activities can help to relieve stress for the primary carer. Caregiving typically becomes too much when the difficult tasks outweigh the enjoyable ones. So, setting up a regular event at the home of the person you are caring for is the ideal solution for including socialisation into the caregiving role. This doesn’t have to be difficult. For example, inviting everyone around for dinner may put the carer under more stress if they have to cook. Instead, consider planning a movie or TV night where everyone can enjoy light-hearted entertainment. Humour is a positive response to stressful caregiving situations, so try to find something that gets everyone laughing. Other activities to consider are book clubs, crafting, or gathering for sporting events.
4. Use Available Community Resources
When caregiving becomes too much, caregivers often feel trapped. There are a number of services and community resources available to benefit both the carer and person receiving care.
Getting additional support for your loved one can help to give you a break and also help lift the spirits of the person receiving care. This support can be as simple as including activities and diversions in their day. For example, you may be able to find a volunteer or other family member who will visit your loved one during the day and spend some time with them. This can help to boost the mood of the person in care, which makes the job of the primary carer much easier.
There are also a number of formal organisations that have been set up to offer services to carers. These services can provide practical, financial, and emotional support through respite care, training, and peer support. Carers Australia and Carers online support are a good starting point.
We know that caregiving is a difficult but rewarding role. A Brain Sparks workshop may help to ensure you don’t feel overwhelmed with the role as it arms you with advice and practical strategies to help with some of the responsibilities that you have taken on. For more information on how we can help, don’t hesitate to get in touch.