Are you a caregiver in a senior living community? If so, you spend your time taking care of the needs of those who are vulnerable and rely on your skills and compassion daily. But you’re also fortunate because your work provides many rewards that result from the kindness and wisdom of our older residents.
However, caregiving can be a stressful occupation. And for many, the weight of responsibility doesn’t end when their shift does. It’s not uncommon for caregivers to go home to young children who also need their attention or to older parents who depend on them for help.
The impact of caregiver stress
Stress affects the body, mind, relationships and job performance and should always be taken seriously. When ignored or allowed to grow, it may eventually lead to detrimental health consequences, caregiver burnout or compassion fatigue.
Studies have shown an increase of depression, anxiety or development of other chronic conditions for those who suffer on-going stress. Those who care for others often neglect their own health and well-being so it’s important to watch for any of these warning signs:
- Feeling constantly overwhelmed or worried
- Feeling tired or increased fatigue
- Getting too much sleep or not enough
- Changes in appetite and gaining or losing weight
- Becoming easily irritated or angry
- Losing interest in activities once enjoyed
- Feeling sad
- Abusing alcohol or drugs, including prescription medications
- Having headaches, pain or becoming ill more frequently
Source: Mayo Clinic
Caregiver stress and 4 ways to find relief
Stress is an inevitable part of life but it needs to be kept in check. These are steps you can take to relieve the tension that caregivers often experience:
- Set realistic expectations
The best way to deal with stress is to prevent it. Although you won’t be able to eliminate it completely, you can minimize its effects by setting realistic expectations.
Begin by carefully choosing the right organization to work with. When interviewing, ask how they support their employees and whether there are programs or other opportunities to relieve the stress from work.
Make sure you also have realistic goals. The services you provide make a difference to your residents. You not only take care of their basic daily needs but are likely also providing companionship as well. But you must accept that you can’t be all things to all people.
- Guard your heart
While it’s impossible to actually achieve this, strive for the sentiment. Those who care for others are naturally empathetic. But you’ll need to be careful that you don’t become personally invested in their situation as it can affect your ability to provide the quality of care they deserve.
Although you do care about them and any difficulties they may have, you’ll need to set boundaries. It’s natural to feel sympathetic but if you become too involved or cross the line of professional caregiver to one that is more personal, you’ll likely experience an increased level of stress as their health changes. Your judgment and ability to provide the care they need may be compromised.
- Separate your professional and personal lives
Regardless of your career, it is best to keep your professional and personal lives separate. Try not to bring your home life into work. And at the end of your shift, make sure you truly leave the community.
When we’re unable to do that, we bring the people we care for and their challenges home with us. Not only does that affect the quality of time spent with your loved ones but also prevents you from having a well-needed break away from work.
Caregiving can be difficult work and you need respite to function at your highest level. Make the effort to enjoy your family time, days off and vacations. You’ll be able to recharge and return to work rested and relaxed.
- Take care of yourself
As a caregiver, you want to help others and improve their quality of life but for that to happen you must start by taking care of yourself.
Commit to the needed steps of wellness. Eat a nutritious diet for at least most of your meals. Establish good sleep patterns. Create an exercise routine and stick with it. Find activities you enjoy and schedule them instead of waiting until you find the time, which likely won’t happen.
Prioritize your relationships with family and friends. Catch up with a friend regularly for lunch or enjoy dinners with your parents once a month. Those that care about you can help you take care of yourself.
Joining the team at Sinceri Senior Living
Sinceri Senior Living specializes in independent living, assisted living, memory care, and skilled nursing, fostering deep bonds between those who live and work in our communities – just like families.
We extend our commitment in creating this welcoming environment to our employees who form strong relationships with the residents and their coworkers. In fact, many of our team members think of the community they work in as their second home because of such strong connections.
The caregiver’s role is to first make our residents feel safe and secure. We strive to ensure everyone we hire is generous, compassionate and as committed as we are to provide excellent service at every opportunity.
We understand the stress that caregivers can experience and the challenge in trying to stay one step ahead of what a resident or family member might need or desire. We fully support their efforts as it truly takes a team to provide quality senior care.
If you’re interested in becoming a care partner with Sinceri Senior Living as we strive together to exceed expectations, we hope you’ll be in touch.
We also invite you to download our complimentary guide, Simple Self-Care for Caregivers and CNAs: 6 Ways to Take Care of Yourself so You can Care for Others, which includes helpful tips and steps you might try.