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Tips for Protecting a Caregiver’s Mental Health accent

February 21, 2024 | By

Serving as a caregiver to a loved one can be rewarding, but it can also be mentally taxing. If you’re a caregiver struggling with your mental health, you’re not alone. Take a moment to learn how you can take better care of yourself while caring for your loved one, making you a healthier, happier person and a more capable and compassionate caregiver.

Recognize the Impact of Caregiving on Mental Health 

The first step to protecting your mental health is acknowledging the mental and emotional strain and potential burnout that caregiving can bring. It's normal to feel stressed, anxious, or overwhelmed in this role.

In a survey taken during the COVID-19 pandemic, two-thirds of unpaid caregivers for older adults reported experiencing at least one adverse mental or behavioral health symptom in the 30 days prior to taking the survey. Some caregivers may experience more pervasive mental health challenges. In one study, 14.5% of caregivers reported having 14 or more days in the month before the survey in which they felt mentally unhealthy.

Caregiving can certainly create mental and emotional challenges, but you don’t need to feel stuck with poor mental health. You can take steps to proactively care for your mind and emotions.

Prioritize Self-Care 

When caring for others, it’s easy to neglect your own well-being. Make self-care a priority to recharge and maintain mental resilience. Start by establishing dedicated time for caring for your most basic needs, including:

  • Exercise
  • Healthy eating
  • Adequate rest

In addition to these essential needs, you should prioritize activities that make you feel more fulfilled. Consider the activities that leave you feeling more like yourself. Maybe it’s an hour spent with a good book or an afternoon coffee date with friends. 

Making time for these activities can feel unrealistic to some caregivers, but with help, it’s possible. Delegate tasks and seek support from family, friends, or professional caregivers so you gain more control over how you spend your time. Adult Day services can be an excellent option when you need time to recharge while feeling confident your loved one is being cared for and enjoying beneficial social time.

Create a Balanced Routine

When you’re balancing many responsibilities, you may find it helpful to develop a daily and weekly routine that keeps you on track. After all, people tend not to allocate time as effectively as possible by accident; this requires planning and sticking to a schedule. The more on your plate, the more crucial a routine becomes.

For example, those in the so-called “Sandwich Generation” may need to make time for parenting responsibilities and quality time with their kids in addition to caregiving. Add in other commitments such as a career, domestic work, and social activities, and you end up with an impossibly full schedule. 

Schedules fluctuate, so remaining flexible is a must, but it helps to start with a rhythm that works for you and your family. Writing out your schedule can also help you think through how you prioritize different areas of your life and show if you’re trying to fit in too much and should reach out to others for support.

Let Go of Guilt

Studies show what many caregivers know firsthand: Guilt is a common problem impacting caregiver mental health. No matter how much time and energy you dedicate to caregiving, you may feel like you’re not doing enough. These feelings of guilt aren’t helpful and can lead to caregiver burnout. Accept that you can't always be present or fulfill every need. Instead, focus on feeling good about the work you’re doing to care for your loved one. 

Focus on the quality of your interactions and care rather than the quantity. If you’re feeling guilty about asking and relying on others for help, remind yourself that this isn’t a selfish choice but one that can make your caregiving more sustainable. You need to invest in your own well-being to support someone else’s. 

Know When to Seek Professional Support

If you try to implement the above tips but are still struggling, don’t shrug it off. Recognize the signs of caregiver burnout and mental health strain, such as persistent anxiety and exhaustion. These warning signs should prompt you to seek therapy, counseling, or support groups to navigate the emotional challenges of caregiving.

In some cases, caring for a loved one might become too much to handle, even with help from other family members. If this is your situation, consider talking to your loved one about senior living services because this may be a mutually beneficial change for both of you. Whether through community living or services such as home care, Adult Day, or Meals on Wheels, you can enhance your loved one’s quality of life as well as your own.

Supporting Caregiver Mental Health Through At-Home Services

For a dedicated caregiver, mental health can become an afterthought., but this isn’t a healthy or sustainable way of life. You need to find balance, fulfillment, and peace by investing in your well-being as you care for your loved one. In many cases, signing up for senior living services can be a much-needed step to improve your mental health and your loved one’s quality of life.

Learn more about at-home services in our complete guide!

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