Recently, I attended a Caregiver Seminar for seniors caring for a loved one. The common denominator was that we all felt caregivers are being run into the ground with responsibilities. Those of us that are caring for loved ones understand the demands and stresses placed on the caregiver on a daily basis.
Care giving comes in various forms whether it be grandparents caring for young children, spouses caring for their partners, children caring for parents, parents caring for children and the list goes on. It is therefore, important to be kind to yourself as a caregiver and take time to pay attention to your overall health.
Imagine a group of seniors in attendance all there for the same reasons. We are looking for ways to cope with our stressful life. Most of these ladies are in their eighties. They are sad, exhausted, confused, they’re experiencing total burn out. Yet, they’re pushing themselves beyond their capacity. They feel totally helpless and guilty to introduce changes that would make life easier for them.
As a caregiver myself, I can relate to the guilt caregivers feel when they are contemplating change. It takes a while before you finally realize you cannot keep doing the same things and expect a different result. The longer you keep pushing yourself beyond your capacity the more you are compromising your overall health and that is not good to do. Eventually, you become ill and you now need someone to take care of you in addition to your loved one.
Caregivers must focus on their own health and learn how to find a balance in whatever role we play. In order to find that balance we need to change our thought process. As we age, we can no longer cope with the responsibilities we once handled. Therefore, you must set priorities to include taking care of your own health. Get out and have some fun, go dancing.
Today’s seniors are aging gracefully and living longer. Physical exercises play a major role in helping seniors look and feel good about themselves. Interaction outside their everyday environment is a great diversion and presents an opportunity to interact with different people in a different environment. Incorporating simple changes in your life will go a long way in relieving stress and bring a new perspective. Everyone benefits from physical exercises. You become stronger and your mind is clearer.
If you have been a caregiver for a period of time and have not had a mental health check up I encourage you to do so sooner rather than later. Your mental health is just as important as your physical and emotional health, so take the first step now; focus on you first. Here are some suggestions:
- get a mental health check up (ask your family doctor for a referral to see a qualified professional in mental health)
- run on 70% of your body’s capability
- never allow yourself to get burnt out, know your limits give 70% only
- save your own brain – too much stress affects the brain negatively
- take responsibility for your own health
- learn to be selfish so to be selfless to your loved ones.
Perhaps the most important lesson we can all learn is how to stay connected to our core. Learn to focus only on what’s truly important.
Seniors are overtaxed with the responsibility of care giving yet it is difficult for them to incorporate changes in their routine. They feel guilty not carrying on in the usual fashion even though their own health is at risk.
Many people do not like change even though things are constantly changing in our world and in our lives. Change is inevitable. Let’s all learn to accept the things we cannot change and find a comfortable medium for ourselves while caring for our loved ones.
Reach out for help. Let others know you are having difficulty coping. Speak with your family doctor, your psychologist, psychiatrist, neighbours, family members and friends. Get the help you need for yourself so you too can enjoy your golden years.