Most people in their 20s and 30s are just starting out in life or beginning to settle into a work and family rhythm. Everyone is hustling to pay the bills, make the connections to get ahead, and scuttling to get their kids out the door to the school bus in the morning. It’s a lot, but you’re managing to fit it all into the space between weekends while still finding a little time for a cup of coffee (or wine) with your friends now and again.
And then your phone rings. It’s mom. Come quickly.
A whirlwind of a month later, you are now a primary caretaker and you’re not even 40. It isn’t the life you planned, but family comes first. Taking care of someone can be a lot of stress, and the competing needs of jobs, kids, and keeping the house running seem to leave no time for yourself or your sanity.
One of the big mistakes young professionals make when they unexpectedly become a primary caretaker for a loved one is to burn themselves out managing everyone else while their own needs take a back seat. However, it’s important to remember that you can’t take care of others if you don’t take care of yourself.
With these six important tips, you can keep yourself grounded and flourishing while being an exemplary primary caretaker for a loved one.
1. Don’t be afraid to ask for help
Nobody likes to ask for help, but you also can’t do it all. It’s OK to lean on friends and family when you’re shouldering the responsibility of caring for a parent or disabled relative. It takes a village, and you will discover that your community is your strongest resource when times are toughest.
It’s not necessarily about the big things either. There are lots of little assists that can add up to a meaningful block of time and space for your body and soul. Something as simple as a friend dropping your son off after school when they pick up their own child can save you that extra 30 minutes you need to get dinner organized without a scramble.
2. Delegate tasks and chores
The fact of the matter is people with a lot on their plate often try to eat it all themselves. Trusting others with important tasks can be a major source of stress and anxiety when it comes to critical things like medications and deadlines, and at least if you do it all yourself you know it’s done.
However, delegating is a skill that busy people need to learn, and that means making a plan and allowing the people around you to be part of the team. An easy way to start is by making a list of household chores on a posterboard, putting it in a highly visible place, and then assigning everyone days and jobs. You’ll be amazed at how much your partner and your children can lighten your load with a little organization, and you can even set up a reward structure for the end of the week.
3. Tap into the online community
You are not alone! From social media to dedicated apps and services, there are thousands of people out there like nurses and industry professionals who are experts at home care providing.
These online resources can augment your support circle and deliver valuable insight and information about being a primary caretaker. Moreover, it can be a place where you can air your frustrations, worries, and fears with people who have been there or are going through the same thing.
4. Give yourself a break!
That’s right. Believe it or not, you are doing your best and that matters. Perspective is everything, and the only way to get it is to take a deep breath and a step back now and again.
Being a primary caretaker can be overwhelming if the person you’re supporting has an illness or disability that requires constant supervision, and spoiler alert: you’re not a superhero. You’re a human being just like everyone else. You will make mistakes, you will feel bad about it, and it’s also going to be OK.
Compassion for others begins with being kind to yourself, and if you need some extra confidence you can always call a friend or visit an online support group for some TLC to get you back in the game.
6. Make time for yourself
Being a primary caretaker doesn’t mean losing yourself in the process. A Friday date night is a fantastic way for you and your partner to decompress from the week, and a morning trip to the zoo is the perfect opportunity to get your whole family outside having fun together. It might take a little planning but it’s worth it to invest in yourself.
6. Attitude is everything
We’ve all heard it a lot, but you know what? It’s true. This is by far the most important piece of advice when you have unexpectedly become a primary caretaker for someone is disabled or ill.
Sometimes younger people view emerging events as an interruption of their life’s trajectory, but they can be embraced as an opportunity to develop closer, deeper bonds with the most important people in our lives. It’s very easy to build activities and quality time around someone you also care for, and it’s a blessing to be able to share those moments with a loved one you might otherwise miss out on.
And at the same time, you should be positive about choosing to take care of your needs too. If it’s OK to be devoted to someone else sometimes, then it’s OK to focus on yourself now and again. Make the most of the time that you have, stay positive, and you will create the memories you will cherish forever.
I-Ally is Here For You
I-Ally is dedicated to connecting primary caretakers with experts, knowledge, and each other to save time, reduce stress, and make informed decisions for better outcomes. Let us provide you and your family the support you need to keep going strong together.