When a wounded, ill or injured service member returns home, his or her life has significantly changed, and so have the lives of the caregivers and family. DoD recognizes the importance of the caregiver and family in the recovery process. However, caregiving can be stressful, and you run the risk of burnout when you focus solely on others without time to recharge. So it’s important to take time for yourself too. Read on to learn HPRC’s top tips for caregivers and families.
Tip #1: Take care of yourself
Remember the flight attendant presentation? “Put on your own oxygen mask first, before assisting others...” Likewise, as a caregiver, you need to be at you best before you help others. Eating right, getting the proper amount of sleep, exercising on a regular basis, and routine visits to your primary care doctor will help the you provide your recipient with the best possible care. Recreation, leisure activities, and “down time” are important as well.
Tip #2: Make caregiving a "team sport"
No one can do it all. Trying to do everything by yourself can lead to burnout. Graciously and gratefully accept help from others. The Caregiver Resource Directory (CRD) is a great resource for caregivers, as are social support groups. Social support acts as a buffer against caregiver stress. You may already have a strong social network of friends and family, but no matter what, know that you’re not alone. Visit the Military Caregiver PEER Forum Initiative, which helps link caregivers with other caregivers.
Tip #3: Don't expect to be perfect
No one is perfect. Have patience with yourself and the one you care for. Know that it’s enough to give it your best and be satisfied with that. Focus on the things that go well, not on setbacks or failures. Learn to value flexibility and creative outcomes. Establish a mindset where you’re open to change and different ways of doing things. Value creative and adaptable solutions to everyday problems. Challenges will always be there, but life is less stressful if you look for the creative solutions, not “perfect” results.
Tip #4: Celebrate!
Enjoy the little things that go well. This will help give you a sense of optimism. Rewards are good motivators to keep you and your family moving forward. Schedule fun activities, too. Knowing something fun is scheduled at the end of the day may be a good reason to get up in the morning!
Tip #5: Keep a sense of humor
Keep that sense of humor, especially when things go wrong. Laughter is good for you. The ability to laugh at yourself while owning your mistakes makes for less stress, a positive outlook, and good relationships.
Tip #6: Make time for rest
Schedule time to take a nap. Everyone needs time to unwind, refuel, and recharge. It’s easy to get caught up in all the things on your “to do” list.” Life will go smoother, and more “to do” items will get done, if you take the time out to recharge when you need to.
Tip #7: Learn to say "No"
Over-commitment is self-defeating. Most people are pulled in multiple directions: children, work, community activities, and caregiving. This is a recipe for burnout. Instead, stay true to your priorities and say “No” to the rest.