The daily life of a caregiver is a life of routine and repetition. And that day-to-day sameness can wear you down. It can be exhausting and overwhelming. But that same daily regular routine is critical to our older loved one’s sense of comfort and familiarity. It’s a conundrum.
Caregivers make tremendous personal, family, financial and career sacrifices. Before becoming a caregiver you had your own routine - being a parent, commuting, working, and/or just keeping up with life. Now add in the hours of care you need to help someone else meet their needs and all of a sudden your needs are often put aside. The needs and tasks of our older loved ones become even more complicated with the many medical conditions that are common in our aging population.
When you are caring for someone else, you are constantly adapting to their changing needs while still coping with the unexpected turns in your own life. The caregiving tasks can add up to a full time job, and that’s on top of your career and family obligations. No wonder caregivers become more withdrawn, stressed and anxious, and grow more depressed.
If you recognize any of the signs listed above, seek professional help. UK has these resources to help you:
Work + Life Connections Counseling Program is a voluntary, confidential UK benefit that offers five (5) free sessions with a licensed and certified therapist. UK employees (FTE 0.50 or greater), spouses, partners and UK retirees are eligible. For more information click here or call (859) 257-8763 to make an appointment.
UK Psychiatry Outpatient Clinic offers a full range of clinical services for adults and adolescents. For more information please call (859) 323-6021 if you have UK PPO or other insurance or (859) 218-5862 if you have UK HMO.
So how do you break the day to day ‘sameness’?
Join a support group - there are several local groups in the Lexington area. There are even several on-line support forums and groups available. Belonging to a support group - whether it is an in-person group or an on-line support group – can help by:
Providing you the opportunity to meet and talk with other caregivers who are facing similar issues
Giving you a chance to talk openly and honestly about what you’re going through
Letting you share ideas, compare notes and find practical caregiving tips
Helping you find the support you need to reduce the stress, anxiety, depression and fear that can come with caregiving.
Some support group resources include:
Say yes! Say yes to the next ‘safe’ opportunity that comes along to get out and take a breath from your everyday responsibilities. If co-workers ask you to join them in going out for lunch…say, yes …even if you don’t like the restaurant (there’s always something else you can try!). It’s the idea of breaking out of your pattern and doing something you would not ordinarily do.
Start an exercise/nutrition program - being active and eating right helps you feel your best, lowers your stress, elevates your mood and improves your sleep. But you need to find a program that fits your personality, lifestyle and schedule. Here are some ideas:
Take a daily walk or bike ride. Better yet, ask a friend, co-worker, or family member to join you.
Try an exercise DVD - there are DVDs for all levels of exercise intensity; start out slow.
Check out the UK Move Well fitness center or other community centers, gyms, and senior centers.
Take a dance class - a fun way to increase your endurance and meet new people.
If an exercise/nutrition program is something you’re interested in, speak with the folks at UK Health & Wellness. You can visit them at the UK Health and Wellness website to learn about more free services such as phone/email consults with dietitians, fitness specialists and health coaches, plus on-campus fitness membership, events and more. (Make sure to always check with your doctor before beginning an exercise program.)
Seek out respite care. Respite care can be as informal as asking a family member, neighbor or friend to be a companion to your loved one for a few hours. This will allow you to get out and do the things you need to do or to take some time to rest. Formal respite services include in-home services, center-based services such as adult-day programs or overnight/week long stays at an assisted living, personal care or memory care facility.
If this is something you would like to explore, contact UK Elder Care and we can help you get started in looking at respite services available in your area.
During this period of your life, caregiving is part of your purpose. You are a caregiver because you love the person who needs your help. But to continue to do this, you need to take care of yourself. Venturing out of your normal everyday routine can be the boost your need to keep going. Nancy L. Kriseman, author of The Mindful Caregiver: Finding Ease in the Caregiving Journey said it best, "The only control you have is over the changes you choose to make."