Taking Care of Yourself!Posted: March 14, 2019, 11:42AM
Caregiving consumes more hours than there are in the day. At least that's what it feels like. Caregivers are managing their own lives (job, house, groceries, finances, kids/grandkids, and more) and they help their care receivers in varying degrees of time. The tasks of caregiving may entail transportation, arranging services, financial management, setting up appointments, caring for the house, and the list goes on! The average time spent with a care receiver in 2015-2016 was approximately 22 hours per week. (US Dept of Labor Statistics) There are those care receivers who need less time and those who need more.
A caregiver may be close or they may be a long distance caregiver. They may be a spouse, a child or grandchild or a sibling. They may be a caring friend. Caregiver fatigue can impact anyone who is providing care. Whether the fatigue is due to loss of sleep or seemingly endless worrying about your care reciever and the obligations of caregiving, you need to be aware of the need for some "you" time and rest.
Self-care is often swept under the rug. We don't have time to take care of ourselves. The reality is - We don't have time to NOT take care of ourselves! Sleep is one area that is treated as a low priority. We need 6-8 hours of sleep a night but how often do caregivers not get that needed sleep? And, if they do, is it restful sleep or do they sleep with one ear open waiting to hear the phone ring or the care receiver move? Rest must be a priority! The brain's frontal lobe especially relies on sleep to effectively function. Without adequate rest, the brain's ability to access memory, control speech and resolve problems is greatly impaired.
Fatigue contributes to an increased vulnerability to illness. It robs us of energy and focus. Often by the time we as caregivers realize how tired we are, we're already headed for burn out and potential health problems.
Lack of sleep can affect our emotional health as well producing anger, anxiety, irritability, impaired concentration and impaired judgment. The physical consequences can include changes in appetite, frequent infections, issues with drugs and/or alcohol, and increased sensitivity to pain. In addition, lack of sleep can interfere with the body's abiilty to regulate insulin production and the metabolism of sugar putting caregivers at a higher risk of diabetes.
What can you do? Do some care management for YOU!
1 - Assess your situation. Recognize that you are fatigued and that it is negatively affecting your daily life. Think about your situation. What are the problems?
2 - Make a plan. Seek solutions to alleviate fatigue and sleep loss. What can help with those problems?
3 - Intervene. Work on the solutions. Engage your family and friends to help. If that doesn't happen, think about how you can hire help. Call your local senior center. They may have programs that can offer some respite. (Contact us at Altenheim Resource Services for possible ideas for help.)
4 - Evaulate how it went. What worked? What didn't?
You may have to adjust your rest schedule. If you have help coming in the afternoon, take an afternoon nap. Rest when you have the opportunity! You may need to listen to 'white' noise to help you sleep (a fan, a sound machine - something that lulls you to a relaxed state).
Try deep breathing or meditation. Avoid using your cell phone or tablet as the light impacts your relaxation.
Think about what you can do to give YOURSELF the gift of care! We need to take of ourselves so we can take care of our loved ones!