Mental Health Spotlight: Self-Care Tips for Caregivers

Sunrise Senior Living  |  November 16, 2022

As our population continues to grow older, more adult children are finding themselves taking on the role of caregiver for an aging parent. Some do so while working outside the home. Either way, the situation can be stressful, sometimes leading to a personal health crisis for the caregiver.

Many times, the caregiver won’t recognize and act on the warning signs of burnout until it’s too late. They fall ill or experience a serious injury. Or experience a stress-related mental health problem.

This is why it’s important to learn how to practice healthy self-care. And to also recognize the red flags that indicate you might be heading toward a serious case of caregiver burnout.

Warning Signs of Caregiver Burnout

The early symptoms of caregiver burnout are often subtle and easy to overlook, especially in the midst of a busy day. If you are a caregiver who has been experiencing these red flags for two weeks or more, it’s likely your body telling you it’s time to take a break for a break:

  • Insomnia or sleeping too much or too little
  • Persistent fatigue that doesn’t improve with rest
  • Digestive issues or stomachache
  • Anxiety that impedes daily life
  • Quick to angry or become tearful
  • Unintentional weight gain or loss
  • Back, neck, or shoulder pain
  • Developing unhealthy coping habits (e.g., smoking)
  • Loss of interest in socializing and favorite pastimes

Should any of these symptoms be ones you are experiencing, it might be time to make some changes. Start by scheduling an appointment with your primary care physician. They can perform a physical and if necessary, create a plan for getting your health back on track.

Self-Care for the Family Caregiver

In addition to working with your doctor, you might find it helpful to try these suggestions for managing caregiver stress and preventing burnout:

  • Eat well: Preparing healthy meals often seems like a luxury to busy caregivers. It’s might be quicker and easier to rely on convenience foods or fast food. In the long run, however, a healthy diet gives you more energy. It you can’t find time in a busy day to prepare your own meals, try a home-delivered meal service. These programs save time while also ensuring your refrigerator stays stocked with fresh, healthy foods.
  • Exercise regularly: Another stress-buster you might not feel you have time for is getting regular exercise. In reality, fitness activities reduce stress, improve endurance, and promotes better sleep. If you can’t exercise for 30 continuous minutes as health experts recommend, break your daily workout into two 15-minute blocks. You reap the same health benefits.
  • Meditate: There is clear evidence to show the therapeutic value of meditation. Research shows that meditating helps reduce the stress and anxiety most caregivers struggle with nearly every day. Taking a few minutes to meditate at the start of the day can help improve your health. Apps like Calm and 10% Happier are good resources get you started.
  • Journaling: Another healthy practice to explore is journaling. Getting your feelings and struggles down on paper can help you find solutions to difficult issues, while also aiding in reducing stress. It can be as easy as taking a few minutes at the end of the day to thoughtfully document your day.
  • Ask for help: Family caregivers are often known for being unwilling to ask for or accept help. Some believe no one will do as good of a job as they do caring for the senior, while others feel dutybound to do it alone. By asking help and allowing yourself to take regular breaks, you will be a healthier, better rested caregiver.

Quality Care at Sunrise Senior Living

From diabetes and memory loss to joint replacement recovery, Sunrise has a options for providing quality health care for a variety of medical conditions. To learn more about short-term or long-term care for a senior loved one at a Sunrise community near you, call 888-434-4648 today!