Today’s Solutions: June 26, 2022

With an aging population, more people are becoming caregivers, with one in three adults in the United States currently being informal caregivers, someone who provides help and support to another who needs it. For example, looking after and helping an ill spouse, an aging relative, or a disabled child can make one a caregiver.

Illness of any kind is difficult not just for the person going through it, but also for those around them. While caregiving can be very rewarding, it can also very easily take a toll on anyone. Burnout, mental health difficulties, and emotions such as anger, frustration, sadness, and unfairness are all extremely common and valid. To help caregivers cope with this noble yet challenging responsibility, check out these tips.

Accept help

Sometimes it may feel like all the responsibility is on your shoulders, but it doesn’t have to be this way. It may be helpful for your own mental health to write down some ways that others can help you – like taking the person you care for on a walk once a week or running errands to pick up groceries – and let them choose what they can do.

Accepting emotional help can also be extremely hard. Many feel they’re expected to power through difficulties while holding onto a job and dealing with their own mental health, which is an unhealthy way to comport oneself. Staying well-connected with family and friends who provide nonjudgmental emotional support is not just helpful but essential for maintaining one’s own mental health. 

It’s extremely common for caregivers to become depressed or gain an illness of their own in the process of looking after someone. Don’t hesitate to go to a doctor and explain you are a caregiver and any symptoms you are experiencing. From here, you will be pointed in the right direction for support.

Focus on what you can actually do

Guilt is a common feeling when you are a caregiver, with the recurring thoughts of “I should be doing more,” or “how can I leave them alone,” or “I’m a bad person for having a life away from them.” Being the perfect caregiver is an unrealistic goal, and it’s important to set aside time for yourself as well. Remind yourself that you are doing the best you can and making the best decisions you are capable of right now.

Find a community  

Hearing stories and emotions from other people in the same situation as yourself can go a long way in validating and understanding your own feelings. Many online and in-person support groups are out there just for this reason, facilitating connections with people that understand what you’re going through and creating a safe space for meaningful friendships.

Set realistic goals

It can seem overwhelming when you have your own life and someone else’s to balance. By creating a to-do list that breaks tasks into smaller steps, the most important tasks can be prioritized, and you can set realistic goals for what you can do.

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