1) Accept Your Feelings
It’s entirely normal for family 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 loved one.
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 (PCAs) to acknowledge these feelings, it’s even more essential that you not keep them inside. Talking about your feelings and sharing experiences is the best way to handle these types of emotions.
Where to find emotional support for family 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 providing adequate home health care and enjoying an emotionally sound life.
Ways for caregivers to stay emotionally healthy:
- Participate in physical activities that you enjoy (i.e. 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 individual you're caring for is able, feel free to include the person 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 family 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 mental health break.
Signs of caregiver burnout:
- Withdrawal from friends and family
- Loss of sleep or changes in sleep patterns
- 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 for Additional Caregiver Support
Finding a caregiver support group near you:
Specific illness or disability organizations:
- The National Institute of Health’s Alzheimer’s Disease and Referral Center
- The National Cancer Information Service
- The Veteran’s Administration Guide to Long Term Care
- Resources for Post 9/11 Veterans and Their Caregivers
- National Parkinson Foundation
- Brain Injury Alliance Minnesota
- Mental Health Association of Minnesota
- AARP Caregiving Resource Center
Other valuable resources for caregivers: