As a professional caregiver, you can’t do your job successfully without these three skills. You may not have planned on becoming a caregiver but circumstances converged and now you are the family member responsible for caring for an aging loved one. Caregiving is filled with the desire to help, concern, worry, and guilt.
If you are a caregiver, caring for yourself is a requirement for doing the job over the long term. If you do not put yourself first to reduce stress and refresh yourself, you will not have the health, tolerance or clarity of thought to provide the level of care you desire. The three key skills every caregiver needs include the ability to:
- 1: Manage stress
- 2: Develop a strategy of “me time”
- 3: Keep tabs on personal health
How do you manage stress?
- Long term stress builds up over time and has the power to increase blood pressure and decrease the overall health of the caregiver.
- Short term stress occurs during a day or an hour. It can spring from the frustration of trying to give an aging person their medication or trying to redirect a person suffering with dementia.
Skill 1: Stress management through breathing
Take a breathing time-out. Take two minutes – breathe in slowly through your nose and exhale slowly through your mouth. While doing this, close your eyes and take notice of any part of your body that feels tense, while consciously relaxing that part of your body. It has been proven to work and is used in many of the leading mind-body health institutions in the U.S. today.
If you are suffering from long-term stress, some of the signs are feeling short of breath, angry, irrational, unable to think clearly, raising your voice, and dreading the act of caregiving. Take these signs seriously and see your physician.
Skill 2: The Power of “Me Time”
Consider this a strategy to successful caregiving. When the aging person you are caring for takes a nap, or watches TV, take a moment to sit in the other room within sight of them and enjoy a cup of tea or hot chocolate. It is most important to learn to calm and comfort yourself as you travel the caregiver’s path.
You can also enlist the help of family members, even if they are reticent to do so, so that you can have a day off.
Skill 3: Keep Tabs on Personal Health
This is very important because stress can make you sick in ways you may not realize. For example it can raise your blood pressure, create problems in the GI tract and increase headaches. You won’t necessarily know that you have high blood pressure, so it’s important to have regular check-ups. Your good health will help you to improve the health of the person in your care. If you feel good, you can give your best to your aging loved one.