Caregivers play an essential role in the health of our family members and loved ones. However, often caring for self while caring for someone else can also be difficult. Perhaps you find that you are a new caregiver due to COVID-19, perhaps you were caregiving before the pandemic. Whether you are new to this work or have been doing this for a while, here are a few tips to help you get through it:
- Know that feeling guilty, angry, grief, etc. are normal. Many caregivers experience a multitude of feelings in connection to caregiving such as grief, anxiety, grief, and anger (https://ablethrive.com/relationships/4-common-caregiver-emotions-and-how-handle-them). Some people may feel shame for feeling these feelings when thinking about their loved one, however, these feelings are normal. You may be sacrificing a lot of resources at this time, or you may have some unresolved feelings towards the person from the past and may now be in a situation where you are caring for them and may not feel comfortable talking to them about it. Know that your feelings are valid, and you have a right to feel however you may feel in the moment.
- Give yourself a break. According to the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP, “Family caregivers spend an average of 24.4 hours per week providing care. Nearly 1 in 4 caregivers spends 41 hours or more per week providing care” (https://www.caregiver.org/caregiver-statistics-demographics). Thus, caregiving can be a full-time job and can be particularly difficult if you are living with that person full-time as well. If you know that the person that you are caring for typically takes a nap at a particular time during the day, consider giving yourself that time as a break as well.
- Know when enough is enough for you. If you notice that you are having trouble making sure that your needs are met while caring for someone else, practice STOP: S=seek out support, T=take time for the things you enjoy, O=opt for help when you, P=prioritize your needs (https://www.brainline.org/article/8-essential-caregiver-coping-strategies) None of us can pour from an empty cup. The more that you can ensure that you are taken care of, the better caregiver you can be for your loved one.
- Remember that you are not alone. According to the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP, there were approximately 43.5 million caregivers in the United States in 2015 (https://www.caregiver.org/caregiver-statistics-demographics). Given that statistic, it is likely that you may know someone that is currently a caregiver or may have been a caregiver in the past. Consider talking to them about their experiences and sharing what you are going through. There are also support groups dedicated to caregivers that can be helpful when seeking support. If you have family members that are willing to help out in some way, consider enlisting their support.
Caregiving can be a very difficult experience, but it is not something that you have to do alone. If you are experiencing complicated feelings in regard to caregiving, reach out to a counselor or consider joining a support group. Consider reading a book on caregiving or talking to someone who has also done the work before. Remember that caregiving is a journey that you do not have to travel alone.