You can’t give what you don’t have. This is the essential truth of every supportive role that we play, especially those that involve being the caregiver for older loved ones. If you’re burned out, exhausted, or sick, you simply won’t be able to give your parent or other loved one the level of care that they need.
This is one of the main reasons that you must protect your own health while caring for your older loved one.
Five Ways to Protecting Your Health While Caring For a Senior
Here are five ways to maintain your own health as you look out for the well-being of a parent, partner or other senior loved one.
1. Know What to Expect
Learn as much as you can about whatever challenges your older loved one is experiencing emotionally, cognitively, and physically. That way, you can be prepared for what you’re likely to encounter in the weeks and months ahead.
This is especially important if your loved one has Alzheimer’s disease. Knowing what someone with Alzheimer’s is likely to experience at various stages of the disease is a good way to reduce the stress that can be so damaging to your health.
2. Practice Proper Self-Care
This means that you must get proper sleep, nutrition, and exercise. In addition, it’s important to participate in social activities and practice stress relief techniques. Proper self-care is never optional when you’re tending to the changing needs of an older loved one. Remember, if you let your health decline to the point where you experience a serious illness, there might not be anyone available to care for your family member.
3. Ask Your Older Loved One for Guidance
Let your senior loved one know you still value their advice by asking for their opinion with problems you encounter in your daily life. This will go a long way toward conveying the respect you have for them. It will also help reinforce warmth and intimacy in your relationship.
4. Don’t Take Anything Personally
Although this is often easier said than done, it’s critical that you remain detached from any unreasonable or hurtful behavior that your older loved one displays toward you. Keep in mind that they might feel as if they’ve lost both their authority and their autonomy. Hurtful words or actions are the result of the fears and frustrations they associate with these perceived losses, not from any intrinsic disregard for you.
5. Know and Accept Your Limitations
The ongoing process of caring for an older loved one is both infinitely rewarding and fraught with potential difficulty. By knowing and accepting your limitations, you’ll maximize the rewards of caregiving and diminish the amount of frustration, guilt, and sadness that you feel.
Remember that you’re just one person, and accept you might not be emotionally or technically equipped to fulfill all of your older loved one’s needs. Understanding this will help ensure their well-being and your own.
If It Starts to Become Too Much, We Can Help
You’ll notice that “know and accept your limitations” is listed last. There’s a reason for that. It’s because knowing and accepting the limits of what you can do for your older loved one is the foundation of doing what’s right for them, yourself, and your entire family. Trying to exceed your limitations will only result in burnout, depression, and possibly even a health crisis of your own.
Once you begin to approach (or cross) the line between what you can and cannot do, it’s probably time to consider an assisted living community. If and when this time comes, please call us for an in-person tour. We’d love the opportunity to show how we can help support the happiness and independence of the older loved one you’ve cared for so diligently.