November will mark National Family Caregivers month. Studies show that looking after those with special needs exacts a toll on caregivers. This Thanksgiving season, shift your focus a little and remember that you must take care of yourself if you want to continue caring for others.
As the saying goes, “you can’t pour from an empty cup.” If you have been a caregiver for a loved one with a disability or chronic illness, ensure that you are healthy physically and mentally. Here are five tips that can help you prioritize self-care.
1. Know Your Limits.
It is admirable that you are caring for a disabled loved one, but you must keep your abilities and skill set in mind. Even if you are a health care worker, you still may need to contact professional help in some situations.
Create and maintain a good relationship with your loved one’s medical team, and do not hesitate to contact their doctor when something is beyond your ability.
2. Try to Avoid Burnout.
The subject of burnout usually centers on stressful jobs that essentially cause workers to lose themselves in their work. Caregivers also face the risk of experiencing burnout, and the chances of burnout may be greater because some caregivers do not think they can stop working.
Burnout is mental, physical, and emotional exhaustion, which can come about for many reasons. Causes of burnout include:
- Trying to live up to unrealistic expectations, whether they are your expectations or those of family or friends.
- The inability to control your loved one’s condition, particularly if their condition worsens over time.
- Feeling unable to separate your role as your loved one’s spouse, partner, parent, child, or friend from the role of their caregiver. Setting boundaries is an essential part of making this distinction.
3. Lean Into Your Support System.
Part of caring for yourself is learning to delegate responsibility. It is impossible to do everything alone and maintain good mental health. If you have family members willing to take on some of the work and responsibilities of caring for a loved one, let them!
Similarly, make an effort to express your concerns and anxieties to your family and friends. Caring for disabled loved ones is very stressful, no matter how rewarding in some respects. Remember that you are only human; it is OK to need a shoulder to cry on, a listening ear, and someone else to take charge for a while.
4. Create a Support System If You Don’t Have One.
If you do not have family support, create a support team by reaching out to other caregivers. Various resources are available to help you create a network to lean on when caring for a disabled loved one becomes overwhelming.
Among the online and in-person groups that provide emotional support, offer tips about caring for a loved one with special needs, and can point you in the direction of community resources if you need help caring for your loved one are the following:
5. Plan for the Future.
You cannot hold the reins forever, and you know that there is a possibility that you will need to choose someone to act as your disabled loved one’s caretaker in the future. The thought probably causes anxiety and contributes to your overall stress level. To alleviate that anxiety, start planning. One way to plan for the future is by creating a Memorandum of Intent.
A Memorandum of Intent guides future caregivers so that they know how to care for your disabled loved one properly. You can include any information you think will be helpful for them, including a list of your loved one’s medications as well as their likes and dislikes, contact information for health care providers, their schedule of daily activities, and so on.
Take Care of Yourself This Holiday Season
This Thanksgiving holiday, remember that your loved ones are thankful for your care and attention. You owe it to yourself to be easier on yourself. Let your time with your family and loved ones remind you that you are not in this alone and you do not need to do everything on your own. Fill your cup with those around you, and you will see that you can better care for your loved one with special needs.
For further support and information, be sure to contact your special needs attorney.