“I have the right to take care of myself. This is not an act of selfishness. It will give me the capability of taking better care of my relative.”
Adapted from A Caregiver’s Bill of Rights by Jo Horne and published in 1985 by the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), this is the first entry in a list of rights focusing on caregivers’ needs. And it can be a hard pill to swallow for someone who has signed on to support the well-being of another. But before you can care for someone else, you have to take care of yourself. If you’re a caregiver, here are some noteworthy self-care tips that will get you to a place where you can best care for others.
Process your stress. Caregiving, by its nature, is a stressful job to take on. It often includes a large amount of thankless work and can vary in intensity depending on whom you’re caring for, and why they need special care. For example, caring for a person with dementia can cause a different type of stress than caring for someone with a physical limitation. Not to mention the fact that your personal relationship with the person you’re caring for can come into play.
That’s why it’s important for you to process your stress in a healthy way instead of letting it build up, potentially causing irritability, lack of sleep, forgetfulness, and more. You can do this by taking regular walks, prioritizing personal time, or getting together to talk things through with a friend or counselor.
Set goals. What would you like to accomplish over the coming months as you work with this person? We’re not talking about goals for helping your relative or patient - we mean what personal goals do you want to see through? Maybe you want to take a break from caregiving, or at least get some help giving baths and preparing meals. Maybe you want to improve your health through increased activity and a balanced diet. Whatever your goal is, write it down and take steps to achieve it. This will help you keep perspective and continue to prioritize your needs, which will, in turn, make you a better caregiver.
Share the load of responsibility. Perhaps one of the reasons you decided to care for your loved one was because you thought you were the only one who could do it right. While it may be the case that you’re especially suited to care for them, remember that you can, and should, ask for help. Friends, relatives, and medical professionals have the experience and knowledge to contribute to your loved one’s health and well being, and you should let them help.
Communicate constructively. Things can get tense fast when you’re around your family member most of the day, every day. That’s why it’s important to communicate well and often to prevent arguments and reduce stress. When something bothers you, speak up in a nonconfrontational way, using “I” phrases instead of “you” phrases. For example, say “I feel upset,” instead of “You made me upset.” Speaking up when the event happens is important as well, so the frustration doesn’t fester. Don’t expect the person you’re caring for to guess how you feel.
Ask for and accept help. It’s okay to admit you can’t do everything on your own. You shouldn’t, and most people can’t. So when you need a helping hand, don’t be afraid to ask for it. When someone offers to help out, accept it! Maybe your neighbor can pick you up a few things at the store, or a friend or relative can help you navigate confusing paperwork. Remember that reaching out is a healthy sign of personal strength.
Talk to a doctor. You’re responsible for a lot of things, from household chores and shopping to transportation and personal care, but it doesn’t always end there. You may need to administer medications and medical treatments. That’s why it’s important to partner with your charge’s physician or medical team to address the health needs of both you and your loved one. Make sure to check in regularly with the doctor to make sure everyone’s health needs are being met, including yours.
Exercise regularly. Research suggests you can maintain or at least partly restore endurance, balance, strength, and flexibility through everyday activities like walking and gardening. Exercise increases energy and alertness, promotes better sleep, and reduces tension and depression. No time to exercise? Incorporate it into your daily activity. Perhaps the person you care for can walk or do stretching exercises with you. Find activities you enjoy and do frequent short exercises instead of exercises which may require large blocks of time.
Learn from your emotions. Caregiving often involves a range of emotions. Emotions are messages we should listen to even if they’re negative or painful. Our feelings help us understand what is happening to us. Whether it’s guilt, anger or resentment, if your emotions are intense and you can’t enjoy the activities you previously enjoyed, you may want to speak with your physician.
Even as a caregiver, you’re responsible for your self-care. It isn’t selfish to focus on yourself — it’s an integral part of the job.
If you or your parent are struggling with questions about how best to afford long-term care or other expenses, Ashar Group can help. A life settlement enables you to sell a life insurance policy you no longer need and receive a lump sum of cash that’s greater than the cash surrender value and less than the death benefit. Ashar Group has brokered life settlements in which the policy owner received as much as 8x the policy’s cash surrender value.
The proceeds from a life settlement can be applied to anything, including heath care cost or other expenses. You, or your financial advisor, can take our 7-question policy value quiz to determine whether your situation may qualify for a life settlement solution.
Though a life settlement isn’t right for everyone, Ashar Group can be part of the process of determining whether it makes sense for your situation. We invite you and your financial planner to contact us today.