Caring for an aging or ailing loved one is never easy – but throw in a fulltime job, kids of your own, and a busy household, and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed fast.

Nearly half of all caregivers have trouble balancing work and caregiving, and 20 to 40% of them suffer from depression.

But just because you’re a caregiver doesn’t mean you’re doomed to live a life of stress and burnout. It’s possible to care for a loved one without sacrificing your physical or mental health.

Ask for and accept help

Caregiving is tough work. What makes it tougher is that many caregivers don’t ask for help or accept it when it’s offered.

Why? Caregiver’s guilt. They fear that by admitting the toll caregiving is taking on them, it’ll seem like they don’t care about their loved one’s wellbeing.

Caregivers can overcome their guilt by focusing on the primary goal: keep their loved one safe, happy, and healthy.

If you can’t achieve this goal because you’re stressed, overwhelmed, exhausted, or burned-out, then it’s time to ask loved ones in your family and circle of friends for a little help.

Start by asking for help with the mundane tasks of everyday life, like cleaning and laundry.

When you’re comfortable getting help from others, it becomes easier to ask for help with heavier tasks like administering medication

Know your limits

Caregivers tend to underestimate how long something will take; this is a recipe for stress. If you overbook and overschedule yourself to the point of feeling frazzled by noon every day, your health will suffer.

Take a good long look at your schedule and do your best to overestimate how long things will take.

If you end up with a few free minutes, you can easily fill them, which is better than scrambling to get too many things done in too little time.

Also, remember to get enough sleep. Burnout happens faster if you’re not taking good care of your health.

Even if you have a lot to do during the day, set a firm bedtime for yourself and your loved one, and do your best to stick to it. Anything that isn’t an emergency can wait until the next day.

You’ll feel more alert and less stressed when well-rested. So, get your rest because lowering your stress levels is one of the keys to avoiding caregiver burnout.

Get a pet

The elderly and ailing are at risk for loneliness, so providing them with company and companionship is part of your duties as a caregiver.

Most caregivers are so busy that they have very little time to sit down and chat.

But, a well-mannered adult cat or small dog can provide extra companionship for your loved one, lower their stress levels, and boost their mood.

If the idea of getting a pet when you’re already stressed is scary, ask another family member to take on the additional responsibilities. If you explain why the pet is necessary, they’ll likely be happy to help.

Start a conversation about assisted living facilities

If your loved one’s care becomes too much for you to manage even with all the extra help, it may be time to have a conversation about moving them to an assisted living facility.

You may feel guilty for even thinking about it, but the important thing is your loved one’s health, safety, happiness, and quality of care.

Start the conversation with the facts such as cost, quality of care, and risks. Obtaining and sharing that information makes it much easier to decide what’s best for you and your loved one.

Caring for an aging or ailing loved one is one of the most rewarding things you can do, but you also need to take care of your health and wellbeing.

Avoiding burnout allows you to be fully present for your loved one, and to be a much more caring and loving caregiver.

Photo by Micheile Henderson on Unsplash

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