The start of a new year is also a great time to form new habits. As a caregiver to a senior, you have taken on an important and sometimes stressful role, especially if you’re juggling multiple responsibilities beyond caregiving.
The truth is every caregiver has moments where they feel overwhelmed or like they’re not doing a good enough job. But know this: You’re probably your own worst critic. Sure, everyone has days when they don’t do the best they could, but as a caregiver, it’s important not to judge yourself.
And the start of a new year is a great time to resolve to give yourself some grace and stop judging your capabilities as a caregiver. However, that’s often easier to say than it is to do, so these helpful tips should help you change your mindset when it comes to judging your success as a caregiver.
Recognize your limitations
We all have a certain capacity for the number of things we can handle at one time. If you’re juggling being a caregiver for an aging loved one along with raising a family of your own and working a full-time job, your plate is full. Recognizing that your ability to keep all the plates spinning is being taxed is an important step in removing self-judgment.
Take a moment to write down all your responsibilities, then decide exactly how much you can realistically do. Give yourself permission to hand off some of the tasks to others if you find you have too much on your plate. Understand that asking for help does not make you a bad caregiver. In the end, it will make you a better one because you will be able to give your loved one more focused attention in the time you do have.
Focus on the positive
The voice in our heads loves to dwell on the negative. The brain is actually wired to remember negative things more than it remembers positive things. That’s a good thing when your brain is telling you not to put your hand on the hot stove. It’s not so good when that same brain is telling you you’re failing as a caregiver because you forgot to buy your loved one’s favorite cereal when you went to the store.
The way you talk to yourself matters. When your thoughts about your effectiveness as a caregiver are negative, your performance as a caregiver can suffer. Studies have found that positive self-talk improves your self-perception and your ability to learn, and even reduces anxiety.
So, instead of telling yourself you’re not doing a good enough job or berating yourself for forgetting something, engage in positive self talk. Remind yourself of all the things you’ve done well and the fact that your loved one is safe and cared for.
Don’t be afraid to take a break
If you find yourself being disappointed in yourself or judging your caregiver abilities, it might be that you need a short break from your caregiving duties. Caregiving is hard, and it can be exhausting. Giving yourself permission to take a break allows you to come back refreshed, which makes you a better caregiver.
Schedule a short time away from your duties. Ask another loved one to step in or hire a short-term caregiver to give yourself some time away.
Avoid comparing your situation to someone else’s
Teddy Roosevelt is credited with saying, “Comparison is the thief of joy,” and it’s true. When you compare your situation to someone else’s life, it can be easy to think that other people have it easier or are better at caregiving than you are.
The truth is that everyone’s situation is unique. Your caregiving scenario and your life circumstances are different from other people’s. The only thing comparisons will do is make you less content and more unhappy.
Did you know that competitive distance runners almost never look behind themselves when running a race? That’s because as soon as they look over their shoulder, they start running someone else’s race instead of their own. Caregiving is like a long-distance race: Run your own race.
Focus on what you are doing well
No matter what we’re doing, there are things we do well, and things that we’re not that great at. Caregiving is no different. Keep yourself focused on what you do well, and do your best to learn about the things that you’re not as good at.
Maybe you do a great job of coming up with ways to keep your loved one engaged with family and friends, but you don’t always remember when it’s time for them to get their hair cut. Instead of beating yourself up, pat yourself on the back for taking your loved one over to your sister’s house for dinner.
Being a caregiver takes a lot of time, patience and love. It can be easy to judge yourself for not being perfect at it, but if your loved one is safe and cared for, you’re doing a good job. In this new year, make a point to turn over a new page when it comes to judging yourself as well. Give yourself grace and focus on the positives.