Whether you are a carer or care recipient, (click here to learn what defines a carer) we all can benefit from basic principles of self-care such as:
- Maintaining a healthy and balanced diet (one that is rich in fruits, vegetables, proteins and healthy fats i.e. Salmon that is packed with Omega 3’s)
- Incorporating physical activity to help with alleviating stress and improving overall health
- Finding meaningful activities that provide respite from caregiving and encourage positive self-esteem (i.e. book club, talking with friends, meditation or prayer, creating art or music, exercising)
Other ways of alleviating caregiver burden
Being a carer is a big task to take on; one way to alleviate the magnitude of care responsibilities is to turn to others for support. Carers may find it challenging to find support for themselves, but they can consider:
- Support services through government or social service agencies (counselling services, virtual day program, or personal care supports)
- Neighbours or community members who may be able to support physically or emotionally. Of course, this has become more challenging during COVID-19 and so to learn more about loneliness during isolation please click here.
Spouses, siblings, or other relatives who may not be aware of the necessary caregiving tasks. They may be able to provide support such as delivering groceries or meal preparation.
The 3 D’s of knowing when to ask for help
Do: Ask yourself, is this task something that is manageable and easy to do by myself? Try to keep to-do lists short by completing smaller and easier tasks, leaving yourself with more time and energy to tackle more challenging needs that may require extra help.
Delegate: Ask yourself, “Is this something that can be done by someone else?” “Is this something that someone has offered to help me with in the past”? A carer sometimes can feel afraid or uncomfortable asking others for help, but it is important to reach out to the community around us.
Ditch: Part of being a carer is figuring out what the needs of the person you are caring for are. At times, it may feel overwhelming when things do not go our way. As part of caring for someone with dementia it is important to know when to “pick our battles”; it can be a lot less stressful to re-evaluate when something is no longer working. (i.e. Dad spends 15 minutes trying to remember how to tie his shoes, he gets frustrated when I try to help him and it often makes us late trying to leave the house. DITCH the laces, and try some Velcro shoes that maintain independence and safety and thus ditching the frustrating interaction).
Knowing the risks is the first step to overcoming them
When it is difficult for people to find social supports, educational tools can help bridge the gap. When caring for someone who has an illness, such as dementia, the types of social supports affect the care being provided. Education and support are the two most important steps in coping with the illness and will have the most positive outcome for both the carer and the person they care for.
It is important for family carers of older adults, many of whom have chronic illness, mobility issues, and or cognitive impairments such as a dementia, to understand the person’s illness and disease trajectory. Knowing what to expect can help one cope with the changes and care a person will require. These changes can include: home adaptations or relocating, assistive devices and equipment, new medications, accessing programs, and involving additional personal care supports. Carers are at high risk for developing depression and mental health issues; gathering a team of supporters around you helps reduce the onset of carer stress. Healthcare professionals are excellent supports because they possess the knowledge and expertise to educate, guide and support individuals and families through the care journey and can help in finding innovative solutions to challenging issues carers and care recipients experience. Professionals can help you organize a strategy to better cope with the challenges of caring and can make recommendations for emotional, physical, and financial health. Recognized institutions affiliated with hospitals, universities, and government are excellent places to find supports. Speaking to your family doctor or healthcare practitioner is also a great way to get help, and stay connected when things become more difficult.