As a caregiver, one of the toughest challenges can be looking after yourself. Whether you’re a friend or family member, caring for a sick loved one can take a significant toll on you. It’s vital to learn how to establish healthy boundaries if you want to be an effective caregiver. Doing so will not only enable you to provide better care for your loved one but also prevent compassion fatigue, burnout, or feelings of resentment down the line.
In this article, we’ll explore three practical methods for setting boundaries as a caregiver, so you can focus on giving the best care possible to your loved one in need. Let’s dive in.
1. Identify Your Needs and Be Willing to Communicate Them
Expressing your needs and preferences as a caregiver can feel daunting, especially when you’re communicating them to the person you are caring for. However, open and honest communication is essential to establish healthy expectations and boundaries for both sides.
Here are some key points to include in your communication to set clear expectations:
- How much time you can dedicate to caregiving: Although a loved one might need full-time care, that does not mean that it always needs to be you. It’s important to communicate where your limits are and to leave enough space for other aspects of your life.
- Any tasks you’re unwilling or unable to do: Set expectations on the things you feel comfortable doing. For example, you may not feel comfortable lifting them in and out of the tub, helping them get dressed, or administering medication. Where you can’t meet a need, you can find an alternative (like professional caregivers or a plan for moving into assisted living as those tasks become needed). Being a caregiver can come with a lot of uncomfortable responsibilities. This is why setting your limits from the start will help with any hard conversations down the road.
2. Make Time for Yourself: Schedule Time for Hobbies, Exercise, and Relaxation
As we briefly touched on, taking time for yourself is an essential part of caregiving. This will help you prevent compassion fatigue, burnout, and let you still live a normal life as a caregiver. But it’s also true that as a caregiver, it’s all too easy to neglect your own needs.
Neglecting yourself and your needs, however, can actually be harmful to both you and the person you are caring for. As the adage goes, you can’t pour from an empty cup.
Whether you enjoy pilates, knitting, cooking, watching movies, running, sculpting, dancing, painting, reading, chatting with friends, or yoga, having good healthy hobbies will keep your mind and body stronger. By prioritizing your mental health and physical well-being, you will stay healthier and, in turn, be a better caregiver.
3. Ask for Help When You Need It: Don’t Be Afraid to Reach out to Other Caregivers or Professionals if Needed
Asking for help is a crucial part of being a family caregiver. Especially if your loved one’s needs keep growing or changing. As we mentioned in an earlier section, if there is something you do not feel comfortable doing or the requests go beyond your boundaries, there is no shame in asking for help. While there are professional caregivers that can step in and fill any gaps, it’s also important to build a community of helpers to ensure the one you are caring for gets all that they need.
That’s why we recommend creating an open line of communication with friends and family about how they can help. This can be done through a communication tool, group chat, or just regular one-on-one conversations. Overall, creating a network of trusted backup caregivers will relieve a lot of the stress that comes with being a caregiver. It’s better to communicate and set up your network before you need it than wait until the situation has gotten out of control. Having a healthy community of people will allow you, as a caregiver, more time for yourself and ensure your loved one is always being properly cared for.
We hope that this article has provided you with a better understanding of how to set and stick to boundaries as a family caregiver. If you have questions, we encourage you to reach out to your local CRC and ask away.
Further Reading: 6 Signs to Watch For: How to Know When You Need More In-Home Support
When you first become a caregiver, you may think that you can handle everything on your own. After all, you want to do everything you can for your loved one. However, there may come a time when you need to ask for help from professional caregivers. This can be difficult to do, but it is important to remember that professional caregivers can provide vital support. In this article, we’ll explore how to know when you need more in-home support.
Click to read 6 Signs to Watch For: How to Know When You Need More In-Home Support – California Caregiver Resource Centers