10 Strategies That Can Make Life as a Caregiver Easier
When you take on the responsibility of caregiving, there’s no class to complete before you start. There’s no blueprint for how to manage the challenges, and no one can fully prepare you for the wins and unexpected joys, either. You might feel like you’re “winging it” sometimes, using trial-and-error to find your own rhythm and strategies that help simplify and streamline your life.
Studies show the toll caregiving may take on a person’s health, which makes it even more important for caregivers to figure out how to simplify and streamline their lives — which in turn makes you a better caregiver to your loved one.The best way to learn how to be the best caregiver you can is from other caregivers, of course.
You aren’t alone in your journey as a caregiver. Follow Caregiving on The Mighty to ask questions and get support.
We asked our Mighty community to share the tips and tricks that help make their lives as caregivers easier. What strategies help you in your caregiving? Share your advice in the comments below.
1. Sign up for grocery home delivery.
You might find that services that eliminate errands are worth the extra cost. Grocery delivery apps, like Instacart, Shipt or your local grocery store’s app, allow you to skip the weekly trip to the supermarket, saving much-needed energy and time. Less time spent shopping equals more quality time with your loved ones, a lighter schedule and more energy to use on other tasks, particularly if you have health challenges yourself.
“Home delivery of groceries is one of the best, most time/energy saving decisions I ever made. I have fibromyalgia and shopping for our groceries used to wipe me out for the rest of the day,” Billie Jean Lamb Templeton said. “Now, I buy the groceries using an app, I stick to my budget since there are no impulse items to tempt me, and someone else deals with the traffic, crowds and noise of the grocery store.”
2. Accept help from others.
Accepting additional help from others doesn’t make you “weak” or mean that you’re not doing a good job on your own. If a friend offers to take over some driving duties, wants to bring over some food or is willing to come over for an afternoon so you can take a few hours off, let them! More help for you just means better care for your loved one and greater peace of mind for you.
“Even if you are the most stubborn person ever, accept help from your family, friends and carers,” Rowan Higgins said.
3. Think about things from their perspective.
No matter what your loved one is or isn’t able to do or communicate, remember that they still have their own opinions and feelings just like you. If you ever feel unsure or frustrated, take a moment to put yourself in their shoes and think about what you would want if you were in their position.
“Remember they don’t want to be needing help! [I] put myself in their shoes!” Terri Heritage Key said.
“Always keep the person’s dignity priority number one and everything you do or the decisions you make will be correct,” Jerene Tussey said.
4. Be careful not to come off like they are a burden.
Caregiving can be hard, no doubt about it — but it’s important not to make your loved one feel bad about the challenges you’re going through. They aren’t sick or injured on purpose and may already feel some guilt over everything you’re doing for them. Rather than acting frustrated when you’re with them, seek out support from other caregivers or friends. Remember that even if your loved one has difficulty communicating, that doesn’t mean they can’t pick up on your mood.
“If their care really is stressing you out, that’s fair. But if you’re an emotive person just please be aware of how you might be coming across in your facial expressions, sighs and eye rolls,” Templeton said. “It may be more obvious than you realized, and that can lead to depression, worsened health and shortened life spans for your loved one.”
5. Take advantage of quiet times and recharge.
When you find yourself with a few unexpected free minutes, it’s OK to take that time to relax and recharge instead of doing another load of laundry. Breathe, meditate, catch up on social media, read a chapter of a book, take a quick nap, call a friend, make yourself a delicious snack — anything that helps you take care of you.
“If you have a half hour, put your feet up with a cup of coffee/tea and do nothing, breathe. (Self care on a small scale!)” Jo Lund said.
6. Prioritize, prioritize, prioritize.
When you’re constantly busy with chores, doctors appointments, driving around and your own social life and work, you can’t realistically expect to do every single thing you want to do (or think you should do). So get used to prioritizing. If you feel obligated to do something but don’t really want to, allow yourself to think through whether or not it’s actually important — then don’t feel bad about giving it the axe.
“Decide what matters most. Not everything is important. Keep it simple,” Cindy Kolbe wrote on The Mighty.
7. Set aside time to do something that helps you relax.
In addition to taking advantage of unexpected free moments, it’s also important to purposefully set aside time for yourself. Maybe you go to a yoga class once a week or plan a long weekend with a friend twice a year. Yes, you are a caregiver, but cultivating other parts of your life can help you feel more refreshed and energized when you are caring for others. In an essay for The Mighty, Rhonda Hodges called it your “vitamin sea” — for her, visiting the beach is therapeutic, but it could be anything that helps calm and center you. Hodges suggested:
Do you like to draw or write? What encourages you? What about dancing? Want to find a dance class and get exercise while having fun? Is there something you always wanted to do like start a business, take more classes or sell your items on Etsy? Do you have other ideas that help you relax and restore you physical and emotionally?
8. Don’t neglect your own health.
While you’re so focused on someone else’s health, you might forget to take care of your own. It might seem silly or unnecessary in light of the serious challenges your loved one is going through. But you can take care of someone else better when you are as healthy as can be. In an essay on The Mighty, Teresa Cooper recommended never skipping meals, exercising at least a couple days a week, making time for your own doctor’s appointments, getting enough sleep and considering going to counseling sessions.
“I fail to take care of myself often,” Cooper said. “No need to feel guilty about it. I think sometimes it’s just the nature of our personalities. We must change, step by step, day by day, if we want to do better for our children, significant others or friends (whomever you care for).”
9. Stick to routines.
While routines help you stay organized and keep you from wasting time and energy, routines may also help your loved one feel more secure. People with dementia may feel particularly soothed by routines.
“Stick with a routine and understand that when your loved one gives you a hard time they may just be frustrated due to loss of control. Carry on because deep down they know you won’t leave them,” Erika Adler said.
10. Keep your sense of humor.
Sometimes, finding the humor in a tough situation is enough to lift you and your loved one’s mood and keep things in perspective. Maybe it’s the strange soap operas that are always on TV at the doctor’s office or the funny sound you didn’t realize you make while you cook. It’s OK to laugh and have fun and find the positives in difficult moments.
“Keep a sense of humor. It will be dark sometimes, but it’s still humor and will help alleviate stress,” Cheryl Averso said.