Six Stress-Busting Tips for Family Caregivers
Rocky Mountain Human Services is proud to honor family caregivers everywhere this November as we celebrate National Family Caregivers Month, which recognizes the work that family caregivers engage in to support their loved ones.
Family caregiving can come in many forms, but they all have the same aim – to assist a loved one in need. Help from a family caregiver can include tasks such as making appointments, performing essential household duties or assisting with hygiene.
Caregiving can be both rewarding and challenging for family members who make sacrifices to care for their loved ones. The COVID-19 pandemic has only intensified the stressors that family members may experience in caring for their loved ones.
In honor of family caregivers everywhere, here are six tips to help deal with stress and avoid burnout as a caregiver:
Identify your stressors: As a family caregiver, you hold the responsibility of taking care of yourself and someone else. The weight of this responsibility can sometimes take a toll on caregivers in these roles. Identifying and addressing early indications of stressors can keep caregivers proactive in avoiding burnout. It is essential to be able to detect when your stress increases and identify your triggers. It is hard to recognize this stage, but it will help you be proactive before it gets to be too much stress.
Ask for caregiving help: Whether you are paid or unpaid for family caregiving, it is essential to have a backup plan when you need support. As is the case with any job, you need to take time off for your care and support whether you have a sick day, need a mental health day, or some vacation time. Not everyone can step away from time to time, but it is essential to have a plan for times when you cannot be there to support your loved one. Make sure to use the resources around you and ask for help from family, friends, or professional services.
Prioritize time for Self- Care: Caring for a loved one can sometimes become overwhelming, but you must never forget to take care of yourself first before you can help them. Make time to do something you enjoy – read a book, go shopping, exercise. Life is about balance, and we all deserve to take some time to prioritize ourselves and schedule time for ourselves.
Focus on things you can control: You cannot control everything. Trying to control something you now have power over can lead you to take in unnecessary stress. It is better to determine what you can do and focus on that rather than on what you cannot change. Psychology Today shares helpful tips about how to stop worrying about things you cannot control and focusing on what you can. Keeping this in mind can reduce your stress levels and give you a more strategic approach to challenges you may face.
Take care of your health: According to a 2020 report by AARP, 23 percent of Americans in 2020 say caregiving has made their health worse, which is up from 17 percent in 2015. Caregivers help others with essential duties in everyday tasks, making it easy to forget about their health. Policy and programs may not have caught up to give caregivers a break. It is essential to create a game plan that works into your schedule and take care of your health. This can look like many different forms including a walk in the park, eating healthier, exercising and more.
Use local, government or insurance-funded resources: It is essential to stay connected with resources in your community, especially those who work directly with family caregivers. Not all policies or government programs have caught up with caregiver needs, but they're all programs you and your loved ones may want to consider to see if you qualify for assistance or support. Here are a few:
Neighbor Network for People over 60 (located in Douglas County): Neighbor Network is a volunteer-based organization that offers support to adults over 60 living in Douglas County. Based on availability, volunteers can support transportation, grocery shopping, light housekeeping, seasonal yard upkeep, and light handy work. To receive services, you must be a member, and you can apply here: Aging Resources | Programs (agingresourcesdougco.org)
Colorado Child Care Assistance Program: The Colorado Child Care Assistance Program (CCCAP) helps people who qualify find low-income childcare assistance. Families enrolled in the Colorado Works Program can also use CCCAP services: Colorado Office of Early Childhood | Oec_partners | Partners
Older Adults' Equity Collaborative Resource Library: The Older Adults' Equity Collaborative (OAEC) Resource Library provides digital tools, resources, and guidance to the aging services network to serve older adults and family caregivers better. The Resource Library includes supportive information with a variety of online resources for areas such as social isolation, mental health, Alzheimer's/dementia, disabilities, caregiving, retirement income, and security and emergency planning: OAEC Resource Library | New York Academy of Medicine (nyam.org)
If you or a loved one is struggling to deal with stress or burnout, you may want to think about speaking to a therapist to find the best solutions for you.
To learn about our family caregiver programs at RMHS, visit our Life Skills and Support at RMHS | Denver | Rocky Mountain Human Services (rmhumanservices.org) or our Single Entry Point Program at Single Entry Point | rmhs (rmhumanservices.org).