"Please secure your own oxygen mask before assisting others" is a familiar phrase during the safety briefing on airplanes. This advice extends beyond air travel and is universally useful. Caring for an ailing or elderly loved one can be both rewarding and demanding. If you find yourself in the challenging position of the "sandwich generation," responsible for the care of both children and elderly parents, the stress can escalate. Add in the demands of working, childcare, and household management, it can quickly lead to a state known as caregiver fatigue or burnout.
Caregiver fatigue manifests as physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion resulting from the constant care of another person. Common symptoms include:
The first step is acknowledging that you are struggling. Once you recognize this, take the time to identify the areas where you require assistance. This will let you tap into available local resources. Consider options such as home health care services to aid with day-to-day tasks, utilizing adult day care centers, or arranging for respite care. There are numerous resources ready to provide support. If you need assistance in discovering these resources, consult your healthcare provider or reach out to a local end-of-life doula for guidance.
Next, try to allocate at least an hour each day for self-care. This can be as simple as taking a leisurely walk or indulging in an episode of your favorite TV show. Engage in activities that bring you joy and allow you to temporarily shed the role of caregiver. Given that caregiving can be emotionally taxing, seeking the guidance of a therapist can prove indispensable. A therapist can help you navigate your feelings and equip you with additional coping mechanisms for your emotional well-being.
Additionally, remember to prioritize your physical health by ensuring you get adequate sleep, maintaining a balanced diet, engaging in regular exercise, and limiting the use of drugs and alcohol. If eating a healthy, nutritious diet proves challenging, consider meal prepping, a convenient solution. Numerous websites offer guidance on meal prepping, and services like Amazon Prime and Misfit Market can deliver groceries to your doorstep. For exercise, even a short 20-minute walk a few times a week can significantly benefit your well-being. It provides an opportunity to step outside, breathe fresh air, and can be enjoyed solo or with a friend for some much-needed social interaction.
In summary, You can’t help others if you don't take care of yourself. While caregiving is important, safeguarding your own well-being is critical to provide the best care for your loved ones. Seek help and support when necessary, and remember, it's perfectly okay to prioritize your self-care.