When being a caregiver for another person, it’s too easy to set your self-care needs aside while you ensure their needs are met. However, if you don’t take care of yourself, your physical health and emotional well-being can suffer. Being a caregiver isn’t easy, and if you don’t have a self-care plan, you could experience major burnout.
Most caregivers naturally keep their focus on others, and that’s what makes self-care hard. If you’re a caregiver, whether it’s your profession or caring for a loved one, here’s how to ensure you don’t neglect your own needs.
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Apply to be a paid caregiver
Part of self-care involves taking care of your bills without going into debt. If you’re caregiving often, you’re probably taking time off work, which means losing pay. Don’t let your bills pile up; don’t go into debt just to survive. Instead, find ways to replace your lost income, like applying to be paid for your caregiving hours.
Most states have programs that will pay you to care for your loved one. Some states have exceptional programs that provide additional benefits. For instance, if you’re in Pennsylvania, you can apply to get paid through FreedomCare. Have your loved one submit an application, or submit the application on their behalf, to see if you qualify.
Document your needs
Self-care begins with knowing what you need when you are a caregiver. What do you struggle with? Where are your needs not being met? Do you need help with grocery shopping? Do you need someone to prepare meals? Document your personal and caregiving needs. If hiring someone to run your errands and do your laundry means having more time to care for your loved one, then hire someone for that purpose.
On the other hand, you might need someone to do laundry and prepare meals for your loved one because you don’t have time for that. Whatever you need, make a list and then find someone to hire for each task.
Use convenience services
Getting services for your loved one will make a huge difference and give you more time to care for yourself. Whether it’s medical, laundry, delivery, or meal services, every bit helps.
When it comes to laundry, your caregiver might not always have time, so consider using a laundry drop-off service. You can drop off your laundry, which will be done for you, and the weight of your loads’ll charge you.
One of the most popular free meal delivery services is Meals on Wheels. They can deliver hot meals or stock your loved one’s freezer with fully cooked meals that can be heated in the microwave.
If your loved one doesn’t qualify for Meals on Wheels, use commercial services like Instacart or DoorDash to get groceries or a hot meal delivered when needed. Or, hire someone specifically for running errands.
Make tough choices
Sometimes, you’ll need to make tough choices that you may not want to make but are best for your well-being. For example, suppose you’re not getting enough state-paid caregiving hours and can’t afford to hire a full-time private caregiver. In that case, you may need to consider moving your loved one into a care facility, like a nursing home or assisted living. The alternative is to bear the weight of being overwhelmed, which will only lead to faster burnout.
If you haven’t already discussed this possibility with your loved one, you should have that conversation sooner than later so it doesn’t come as a total surprise.
Don’t cover every shift you’re asked to take
Like any other job, you will get calls from friends and family asking you to cover their caregiving shift. This is inevitable. However, don’t feel obligated to always say yes. If you’re constantly covering other people’s caregiving shifts, that means you’re doing more of the work, and there’s less time for you to recover.
Be selective about covering caregiving shifts. Naturally, you’ll want to support your loved one as much as possible, and everyone gets tired, but don’t allow yourself to be the one who always covers.
Take time for yourself
Last but not least, make sure you’re taking time for yourself to do things that make you feel good. Whether it’s taking a nap, resting, relaxing with Netflix, or going out with friends, make sure you don’t neglect your own life. Taking time to rest and enjoy yourself ensures you have the energy and capacity to continue caring for others.
Featured Image by Manuel Alvarez from Pixabay