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Blog Feature

By: Marissa Salvesen on May 5th, 2015

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How to Handle the Challenges of Caregiving With 5 Easy Steps

assisted living | caregiver tips | Aging & Caregiving

shutterstock_150002735Unpaid caregivers provide a whopping 90 percent of long-term care in the United States.

The vast majority of them are simultaneously attempting to balance their caregiving duties with work and other family and financial commitments.

While caregiving is not easy, it doesn’t have to be completely overwhelming, either. Consider these five simple steps to help you cope with the challenges of caregiving.

1. Prioritize

The typical caregiver’s “to-do” list is long and can feel insurmountable. One way to gain control? Polish up your time management skills. While that to-do list may seem impossible, the only way to trim it down is to work your way through it.

Making a to-do list of daily activities gives you a tangible picture of all of the tasks, along with which are most important. You’ll also derive a sense of satisfaction every time you cross an item off the list.

2. Make Time For “Me Time”

Go back and look at your to-do list. Odds are, it’s missing one critical element: time for yourself. While it may feel like indulgence, "me time" is anything but optional.

Caregiver stress affects millions of people, and can have long-term consequences for your health and wellbeing. Whether you take a walk around the neighborhood or curl up with a good book, scheduling time to relax and recharge is an invaluable coping method.

3. Accept Your Emotions

The lives of caregivers are full of self-doubt. Are you doing enough? Are you doing too much? Can you handle the responsibilities? At its best, caregiving is fraught with uncertainty so it's no surprise that emotions may run high.

While positive thoughts and self-talk are helpful, it’s not always possible or healthy to bury the darker, “forbidden” feelings of loss, guilt and frustration.  Share your feelings to a supportive friend or family member. Or, check in with local hospitals and community centers for information on caregiver support groups.

And remember; both crying and laughter have healing powers.

4. Set Realistic Limits

Many caregivers fail to realize one simple truth: you can’t do it all. Letting go of these expectations and accepting your limitations is an effective coping mechanism.

Get out that to-do list again. Are there any things on your list which could be done by someone else -- perhaps even by your aging loved one? A caregiver’s task is not to do everything just because you can, but to provide essential help and support.

5. Acknowledge Your Efforts

Caregiving can feel like a thankless job. After all, there’s always something else to do, and little time to relax and reflect on how your work is making a difference. Take time to recognize your talents, strengths, and gifts, and how they impact your loved one’s life.

If you’re part of a team of caregivers, play to your strengths by focusing your contributions where you truly shine.

Caregiving is difficult, but not hopeless. After all, 67.5 million Americans -- a full 29 percent of the country's adult population -- do it every day. These five steps can help you overcome the inherent challenges of this vital role and enjoy a more fulfilling quality of life.

Key Takeaways

  • While achieving balance is hard, time management and prioritization are useful tools.
  • Allow yourself to feel your emotions and talk about them with your support network.
  • Accept that you can’t and shouldn’t do it all; instead, set manageable expectations for yourself.
  • While some elements of caregiving will be outside your comfort zone, others will complement your unique skill set and talents. Focus your efforts here, whenever possible.
  • Pat yourself on the back every once in a while. You deserve it.
United Methodist Homes- Essential Caregiver's Guide

About Marissa Salvesen

My journey into the world of senior living began when I started working for United Methodist Homes in 2010. Starting as an Activities Director at one of our-winning assisted and independent living communities and then transitioning to Marketing and Promotions Manager for UMH, I now work as the Manager of Mission Development, fostering the Mission and Values of our organization. I love sharing stories about the many ways we build meaningful relationships and enrich the lives of those we serve, and am proud to be part of building UMH’s 140-year legacy of caring. Wondering what makes our communities such special places to live and work? Connect with me and find out!

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