At times, despite the fact that you’re giving the beautiful and selfless gift of caring, being a carer can seem like a thankless and very stressful task. For this very reason, it is important to look after one’s self, otherwise if you own cup is empty, you will literally have nothing left to give. If you’re a carer, here are 10 ways to help reduce your stress
1. Take time for yourself
It doesn’t have to be hours at a time. Even taking just a few minutes each day for yourself will help to reboot your energy levels. Why not try yoga before breakfast, go for a 20-minute walk, take a 15-minute nap, go to the movies or spend time on any hobby you enjoy (e.g. knitting, gardening, paints, etc.)
2. Know your limits
If you don’t know your limits, you can end up feeling overwhelmed and drained. Consider making a list of all the caring tasks, including dressing and bathing a loved one, making appointments, cooking and household chores. Note which ones you can outsource to other family members or paid help and do so. And learn when to say no to other, less important people in your life, so you can take care of your family and yourself first.
3. Stick to a routine
A daily routine can act as a safety net. It can help you feel in control rather than stressed, and let the loved one for whom you’re caring know what to expect. Having a routine is usually a good idea for people with dementia. It provides a sense of security and helps them maintain their abilities.
4. Use reminders and organisers
We live in a world of technology, so why not use it to your advantage? You could try a smartphone app or an online medicine reminder to send an automated text or phone call to you or your loved one when it’s time to take medicines. Or you could use a dosette box if you’d rather avoid the fancy technology. You can even ask your pharmacist to fill it for you.
5. Ask for help
Know that there is no shame in reaching out for help. Seeling the help you need will benefit both you and the person in your care. Make a list of family, friends and neighbours you can call to take over when you need a break. Also, use resources that are available to you, such as,
- My Aged Care – information and services for home carers
- Carers Australia – support for carers
- Lifeline – provides tools and counselling
- Centrelink – government payments and programs for carers.
6. Eat and sleep well
If you don’t look after yourself, then you won’t be able to look after others. Nutritious food and sleep are basic human needs. Without either, we cannot function at our best. So, do try to eat wholesome foods and get enough sleep. If you cannot get a full, uninterrupted night’s sleep because of your caring duties, see if you can make up for it with daytime naps.
7. Join a support group
Another carer is the best person to understand your situation. So you might want to consider joining a carers’ support group – perhaps one specifically related to your ward’s illness – to get the emotional support that you need. Or you could join an online community, where you can ask questions, vent frustrations and share ideas.
8. Use a personal alert system
This can be handy on occasions when it is impossible for you or someone else to be at home with your loved one. A personal alert system acts as an emergency button and will call a family member or call 000, depending on what you want. Obviously, there will be a fee with such a service.
9. Enlist a team approach
Consider having regular family meetings (such as monthly or quarterly) to talk about the latest medical news, caring tasks, financial concerns and your own need for support. Include everyone who cares for your loved one, even the paid helpers. Connect long-distance family members through a speakerphone or online video chat (e.g. Skype, Facetime or WhatsApp). Follow up with a written agreement, which includes delegation of tasks and responsibilities.
10. Set up a webcam
This setup is a video camera that’s connected to the internet. You can use it to talk to your loved one or keep a caring eye on them when you’re out and about.