Caregiver is a role that many never expect they will have to play in their lives. However, it is an important one. While providing care for a loved one can be a rewarding experience, it can also strain the emotional health of a caregiver.

Whether you are just getting started or have been providing home caregiving for years, it’s important to know there are resources and support available to you. Below are three tips to help maintain emotional wellbeing while providing at-home care:

1.) Accept Your Feelings

It’s entirely normal for home caregivers to experience many difficult emotions. Guilt, resentment, anxiety, burnout, grief, and disillusionment are very common among those caring for loved ones. It is important to acknowledge these feelings and not attempt to hide from them.

Difficult emotions for caregivers include:

Guilt: You may feel guilty that you aren’t doing enough as a caregiver to provide for your patient.

Grief: Providing care often comes with a number of losses. The loss of time otherwise spent, a future you had envisioned, and the loss that comes with caring for a terminally ill patient.

Burnout: The exhaustion and stress that comes from being pulled in too many different directions. Very common among caregivers who also work and provide for their family.

Resentment: You may be angry with other family members or friends for not doing more to support you or the person you care for .

While it’s important for personal care assistants to acknowledge these feelings, it’s even more important to not keep them inside. Talking about your feelings and sharing experiences is the best way to handle these emotions.

Where to find emotional support for home caregivers:

  • Family members or friends
  • Church or other religious groups
  • Community caregiver support groups
  • Therapist or counselor
  • Specific disability or illness organizations

 

2.) Take Care of Yourself

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is not always the easiest thing to do. Caregivers often forget about themselves when consumed with the responsibility of tending to another. Staying physically and mentally healthy is essential to provide adequate home health care and live an emotionally sound life.

Ways for caregivers to stay emotionally healthy:

  • Participate in physical activities that you enjoy (go for walks, lift weights, play sports, etc.)
  • Set a healthy meal plan at the beginning of each week for yourself
  • Perform a daily stretching routine
  • Complete crosswords, Sudoku, or other mind puzzles daily
  • Find time each day to relax and unwind from the daily stressors
  • Write down thoughts and feelings in a journal to help release emotions

If the person you are caring for is able, feel free to include them in any or all of these activities. These are great ways to stay active and healthy together while providing care.

3.) Don’t be Afraid to Ask for Help

All too often, caregivers feel they must go it alone. Don’t believe this. There are many resources available to assist home caregivers from becoming burnt-out from the stress of looking after another human. The first step is to understand what caregiver burnout is and admit when you need a break.

Signs of caregiver burnout:

  • Withdrawal from friends and family
  • Loss of sleep or changes in sleep patterns
  • Irritability
  • Emotional and physical exhaustion
  • Feelings of hopelessness or helplessness
  • Getting sick more often

 

Support for caregiver burnout:

  • Ask family and friends to split time providing home care for a loved one
  • Adult day care or community activities can provide you with breaks from caregiving throughout the week and give your loved one a change of environment.

 

Resources to learn more about dealing with…

Caregiver stress:

http://www.webmd.com/balance/stress-management/caregiver-advice-cope

http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/stress-management/in-depth/caregiver-stress/art-20044784

Caregiver burnout:

http://www.webmd.com/women/caregiver-recognizing-burnout

http://www.aarp.org/relationships/caregiving-resource-center/info-12-2011/caregiver-burnout.html

Caregiver depression:

http://www.webmd.com/depression/stress-and-depression

http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/caregivers/in-depth/caregiver-depression/art-20047051

Finding a caregiver support group near you:

http://www.caregiver.com/regionalresources/

http://www.aarp.org/home-family/caregiving/info-06-2013/caregiving-support-senior-care-jacobs.html

Specific illness or disability organizations:

 

Other valuable resources for caregivers:

AARP Caregiving Resource Center

Minnesota Family Caregiver Alliance

National Institute of Health Senior Health Guide

Medicare Caregiving Resource Center