Being the primary caregiver for anybody, whether for a spouse, child, family member, or friend, is a challenging job to take on. Often, becoming a caregiver is a journey in and of itself, as over 43 million people annually (on average) in the US provide unpaid caregiving services. In contrast to formal caregiving, a full-time job with wages, standard caregivers volunteer and sacrifice their time to care for the ones they love.
It is a highly noble and courageous task to take on, but at the same time, caregiving provides many challenges that are unpredictable and hard to handle. With so much to keep track of, caregivers are at risk of getting overwhelmed, burnt out, or simply exhausted from everything on their plate. Many times, while the caregiver is working tirelessly to provide high-quality care for their loved ones, no one is caring for the caregiver.
We want to change that!
At theEATbar, we know how difficult it can be to take on the pressure of caregiving, so we wanted to provide a shortlist of tips that any caregiver can use! From nationally available resources and support groups to self-care practices and more, this article will go over the basics of taking care of yourself while taking care of someone else. Whether you’re about to be a caregiver, you’ve been caregiving for a while, or you simply want to learn more about the caregiving process, this article should provide a solid place to start!
Prioritize Your Mental Health
When you boil it down, caring for yourself focuses most on your mental health. Eating a healthy diet and taking care of your body with physical activity are essential, but often, caregivers can struggle most with the mental challenges caregiving provides. That’s why the very first (and arguably most important) tip on our list is prioritizing your own mental health at all times.
Some people might read this the wrong way and assume we’re saying to take care of yourself at the expense of the person you are caring for when in reality, it’s the exact opposite! There is no reason you shouldn’t be able to take care of your mental health while caring for someone else. In fact, if you aren’t taking care of your mental health, you probably can’t provide your best version of care services.
This can be especially true when you provide care for a loved one, such as one of your family members. As much as you won’t want to admit it, many caregivers report that it is more complex than they realized to see a family member or friend that is dealing with health problems. It’s crucial that you can remain stable throughout this time to continue to provide excellent care in the long term.
We highly recommend finding a therapist to help you relieve stress and develop healthy coping strategies for your challenges. Therapy, while often stigmatized, is one of the best investments you can make in your mental health, and regularly seeing a therapist as a caregiver can help you any time you feel overwhelmed.
This next tip goes hand in hand with our first recommendation, as giving yourself a robust support system will do wonders for your mental health. A support system, like therapy, provides various outlets for you to destress, rest, and get help. However, unlike therapy, a support system is wider-reaching and addresses many different aspects of your life.
A support system is often made up of the people closest to you, like family and friends, but it can also include medical professionals, respite care centers, and even professional family caregivers. There’s no single “perfect support system,” but if you have a group of people that can look out for you and give you the help you need, then you’re already well prepared.
Support groups and systems are also incredibly good at spotting the signs of caregiver burnout before you might realize it. Also known as caregiver fatigue, caregiver burnout occurs when a caregiver simply reaches their mental and emotional limit. Caregiving roles demand a lot from a person both physically and mentally, and when you let the stress, frustration, and exhaustion pile up, it can make a physical impact on your body.
However, with a solid support system, you can better manage caregiver stresses and challenges. You can even “dilute” the caregiver burden by allowing someone else to briefly provide care while you take a break for yourself. Find a reliable support system, and you will find caregiving to be much less hectic to handle.
Utilize Your Resources
Our final tip is simple; use the resources provided to you! Caregivers can feel like they are alone in their struggle or not prepared enough to provide informed caregiving, but there are so many resources that can help you with that!
One of the best resources you could ask for is The Family Caregiver Alliance, as it has superb lists of information, education, and even a state-by-state database of caregiver services and resources.
If you were working full-time before becoming a caregiver, the Family and Medical Leave Act could help you determine how much time you can be compensated for in paid time off. It might not seem like a huge deal at first, but this will give you a surprising amount of relief.
When you provide care to someone dealing with a specific health issue, such as heart disease or Alzheimer’s disease, you can often find specialized groups that can help you manage the particular problems associated with the matter. For example, the Alzheimer’s Association and the American Heart Association provide detailed information and resources related to their specific ailments.
Caregiving is a rewarding yet sometimes challenging task to take on. You will learn a great deal about yourself and the person you are caring for, and it’s tough to experience something like that without going through some significant emotional changes. Make sure you find the help and support you need for you to be successful.
As for us here at theEATbar, we provide a different type of support; tasty food! theEATBar was developed specifically with the ever burdened caregiver in mind. When you learn a loved one has been diagnosed with a medical condition, your world changes rapidly, and it changes a lot, so having a quick and easy snack is invaluable.
The shape of the bar promotes self-feeding, requires no utensils, and can be stored at room temperature so that anyone and everyone can enjoy it, making snacktime the easiest part of your day. Our unique melt-in-your-mouth meringue texture provides easy chewing, while our array of delicious flavors keeps you coming back for more!
Check out our collection of snack bars, or learn more about family and food at our blog!