If you happen to be a full-time caregiver for a close family member – be it a parent, grandparent, sibling or spouse, you’ll understand what a commitment it really is. Many full-time caregivers liken it to holding down a second, full-time job, over and above the occupation you may already have and a number of other responsibilities.
It’s no wonder that full-time caregiver burnout is so common and is most certainly a reality to keep in mind if you are new to the caregiver community. Ensuring that your loved one receives the best care possible is a juggling act of time management, copious amounts of patience and the restructuring of your life on a daily basis. It also might be time to consider engaging a live in carer to give yourself some downtime.
While every situation is unique for each full-time caregiver, here are four simple ways you can strike a balance between caregiving and living a well-balanced life:
1. Prioritise personal time
The bottom line is that no full-time caregiver can expect to give their best, every day, if they are tired, distracted and burnt out. This is why you need to plan ahead and make some time for yourself in order to relax, unwind and enjoy the things that bring you pleasure- whether its exercise, baking, reading, cooking or even a few days of travel. To plan personal time, do some research on respite care options in your area, where a professional live in carer can take over for a few hours or days at a time to give you a break!
2. Define your role and stick to it
You may be part of a caregiving team, i.e. you and another sibling share caregiving duties, you already have a live in carer for certain hours each day, or perhaps you handle all the caregiving on your own. Whatever the scenario, it’s vital that you set up boundaries between yourself and your loved one on what your responsibilities are. Make it clear where you draw the line on what you do for them on a daily basis as well as the hours you are available and unavailable. This helps to create a clearly defined separation between your role as a caregiver and a human being!
3. Prioritise your caregiving tasks
If you aren’t a ‘list person’ then it’s time to pick up the habit! Create a set of lists at the beginning of each new month and week and prioritise your tasks in descending order- from the most to the least important. Even if you feel you’re super organised, a priority list helps you to stay on-top of your tasks, avoiding moments of panic when you forget something important. Ultimately, this saves you time and unnecessary amounts of stress, where you can focus on your loved one’s needs as well as your own.
4. Make room for the unexpected
Life happens, and every so often an unexpected event will pop up, forcing your finely balanced world out of orbit. Remind yourself: it’s ok. This is why it’s important to give yourself a little leeway or buffer time between activities or daily tasks which need to be completed, in the case of the unexpected! At the end of the day, your loved one’s needs should come first, but not at the full expense of your own or the rest of your family! Prepare for the unexpected happenings of life.
Finally, it’s important to remind yourself that there’s no such thing as the ‘perfect caregiver’. Don’t allow yourself to become wracked with guilt by taking some time off or restructuring your priority list. Your wellbeing is just as important as your loved one’s!