Taking on the responsibility of caring for a parent is an act of love and devotion to someone who gave us life. However, the dynamics of caregiving for parents is fundamentally different from raising a child. Children become more independent as a result of our care, but an aging parent becomes increasingly dependent on the support of their primary caregiver.
Devotion and dependence tend to feed into one another, and they can be very difficult to manage emotionally, personally, and spiritually. Taking care of someone else often evolves into an all-consuming task that leaves no space for our own needs.
The first rule of caregiving is, you can’t take care of others if you don’t take care of yourself. It’s easy to spiral down a whirlpool that leads to unhealthy behavior, and caregivers are often at risk for depression and stress-related illnesses that can land them in the hospital or worse. When you find yourself in the role of caregiving for parents, it is important to be mindful of the personal pitfalls that can take a toll on your health and wellbeing.
When your day revolves around the needs of someone else, it’s easy for it to become a bubble. Many people who become primary caregivers find that they lose track of friends and meaningful contact with others.
Maintaining your personal relationships is critical to avoiding mental health issues, and there are many ways to keep up with your friends while staying on top of your responsibilities. Grab a cup of coffee in between home and the store, or invite a friend over to share a simple dinner with your family. These interactions are small, but they are a hugely meaningful part of life you should feel empowered to prioritize.
One of the dangers of stress for a caregiver is how quickly stress can build up without noticing it’s happening. The daily anxieties and to-do lists don’t just go away because you need a day off, and it’s easy to fall into a grinding cycle of tasks that slowly chips away at your overall health.
Symptoms of caregiver stress include a loss of appetite, sleepless nights, losing interest in your hobbies and activities, increased use of alcohol, and a general breakdown of your outlook on life. It’s important to be extra sensitive to subtle changes in yourself and your behaviors, and be open to the observations of the people around you.
A healthy body and a healthy mind go together. It’s hard for busy people to get to the gym as it is, and when you have the responsibility of caring for an aging parent on top of that, your own physical health often comes last.
Keeping yourself in shape is how you get the energy to be able to do what you have to do. Taking 30 minutes to jog around the block or doing some yoga is a great way to burn off some stress and revitalize your body and soul without going very far from home.
There are also many activities you can do together with a parent you are caring for, like taking a walk around the neighborhood. It’s good for both of you, and it is an opportunity to spend some quality time together!
Poor Eating Habits
Eating badly is a problem every busy person faces, and being a caregiver is no exception. The fact is, if you eat badly you will feel bad, and watching yourself slowly become unhealthy puts you at risk for all kinds of physical and mental health issues.
What we eat every day is the number one factor in our overall health. We all tend to make it an afterthought of fast food and microwave meals when we’re running around, but that’s when we need good fuel the most. It’s important to give yourself the time—even if it’s only 10 minutes a day—to think about what you’re going to eat and how you’re going to prepare it to keep your engine burning clean and fast.
Going it Alone
Many caregivers feel the tremendous weight of being responsible for a parent falling completely on their shoulders, but you are not alone! There are many communities online and in-person that help caregivers network with medical and industry professionals and other caregivers who are going through the same experiences.
Invest in making your life easier. By connecting with a larger group you will be in a position to stay informed and ahead of the game when it comes to the intricacies and complications of your new role. Plus, it’s incredibly valuable to be around people who empathize with your position because they’ve been there and done that.
There’s a lot you don’t see with yourself when you’re in the thick of it, and some fresh, experienced words of wisdom can open your eyes and help
you keep things in perspective.
I-Ally Has Got Your Back
We know caregiving for parents is a special and challenging devotional act for a child to take on, and I-Ally is devoted to supporting and empowering you on your journey. Our online network of experienced caregiving professionals and people just like you providing day-to-day care for a parent will help keep you informed, and give you the strength to make the best decisions for yourself and the loved ones in your life.