As a caregiver, the last person you think about is usually yourself. However, in order to take care of your loved you, you must make sure you are cared for. This includes when you have to spend the night in the hospital with the one you love. You can’t pour from an empty cup, and by using these tips to relax as best you can while you are giving your all to someone else, you can at least be comfortable amidst what may be the most uncomfortable you have been in your life.
Tips to beat caregiver stress while at the hospital
Here are 10 tips to help you beat burnout while you’re caring for a loved one in the hospital.
Bring your blanket
Of course, you can ask a nurse to bring you a blanket. If you don’t have one, this is a lovely option. However, bringing your blanket from home is better because we all have a favorite blanket (don’t we?) that we love to wrap up in. And many times, hospital blankets aren’t super thick or soft. SUPER LOVING TIP: Bring a blanket for your loved one as well.
The couches/chairs in hospital rooms are probably not cleaned very often. The couches/chairs in hospital rooms are sat on by various boodies from all across the country. Protect your boodie by wiping down your couch or chair with disinfectant wipes.
Thick socks /house slippers/flip flops
You may not want to walk around the hospital room in your shoes all of the time, and you definitely don’t want to walk around with bare feet. A comfortable pair of house slippers or thick socks can keep your feet warm. PRO TIP: You may not want to bring white socks as the dirt will appear. LOVING TIP: Bring socks for both of you.
Bring a Pillow
Having your favorite pillow with you as you are caring for your loved one is a simple and easy way to be able to try and relax.
NOTE: While it is ok to cover your eyes, I wouldn’t recommend plugging your ears with ear plugs. While you do want to be able to try and get a good night’s sleep, you need to be aware of your surroundings and be able to hear your loved one if they need something.
Depending on the location of your hospital, WiFi may not be available and/or you may not be able to get a signal strong enough to stream your favorite shows. Download what you want to watch BEFORE you get to the hospital. NOTE: Download funny things that will help you escape your sadness and/or anxiety for a few moments.
You need to be able to enjoy your shows, but you also need to not disturb your loved one in the room. Earbuds are better than noise-cancelling headphones because you need to be cognizant of what’s going on while you have them on. When you wear your earbuds, only use one so your hearing isn’t impaired. These are wireless and these aren’t.
You can’t be guaranteed that the room you are sleeping in will have an outlet you can use. In order to be certain you will have enough charge, make sure to bring your own charger.
If you are going to be taking a shower in the hospital room, bring some shower shoes it’s more hygenic to cover your feel when using a public shower and this way, you won’t have to worry about any unwanted fungus attaching to your feet.
How do you deal with being a caregiver?
Taking care of someone you love can be filled with immense joy, but it can also bring a huge amount of stress. You will have to deal with things that you probably have never had to deal with before, and interact with them in ways that are foreign and uncomfortable.
There are support groups you can join, make sure to check what resources are available to you in your area. AARP has caregiver resources you may find helpful. Do not think this is something you can deal with on your own. You cannot. You MUST have some form of healthy support to guide you through this difficult stage in your life.
PUT YOURSELF FIRST
This may seem like a strange thing to read but it is not. You simply cannot pour from an empty cup. Go ahead and try, you will not succeed. There is nothing wrong with making sure that YOU have the tools you need to deal with the stress you are now under. Here are a few things that may help:
- long walks
- a glass of wine
- talking to friends
- working out
- doing something crafty if you are a crafty person
- getting manicures/pedicures
- getting a facial
- reading a book
- watching TV (watching TV is an easy way to let your mind focus on something trivial for a bit, don’t underestimate the value of your favorite comedy).
- take a day trip/weekend getaway
- get therapy
How do you alleviate caregiver stress?
You first have to acknowledge that you are stressed, and that takes humility. You may feel guilty for feeling stressed because of who you are taking care of. How can you justify feeling stressed if you are taking care of a parent or relative that you love dearly?
It is stressful and there is nothing wrong with acknowledging that fact. Running away from your feeling will only make those feelings worse. You must take breaks and walk away from situations when you feel yourself getting too worked up. There is no shame in taking a few minutes to calm yourself down, re-center, and find your joy. There is joy in this very unnatural process, and taking the time you need to help you find it is always a good thing.
Where is the joy, you may be asking? Being able to spend so much time with someone you love is joyful, you just have to shift your mindset and focus on the positive and not dwell on the negative.
Instead of thinking, “I have to cancel my plans and spend the night with them because they may get up and walk away” try thinking, “I get to spend the evening making sure he/she is safe which is something they did for me when I was a child. I’m so grateful I get to show my appreciation for them in this way.” See? Shift your mindset. The more you do this, the easier it will become.
Keeping yourself in good spirits gets easier if you don’t take the negative things your loved one says seriously. Depending on what your loved one is dealing with, it may make them cranky and rude. That’s ok. Put yourself in their shoes and imagine what it must be like to have to acquiesce to almost everything.
If they have been independent their whole lives and now find themselves totally dependent on you, how do you think that makes them feel? Make sure to show empathy and don’t get offended when they may lash out.
I was talking to someone I am currently caring for and they said something snarky. I said, “All I hear is ‘Roni is so wonderful and I’m so grateful she is here helping me through this.’ we both laughed tremendously. Laughter is healing and makes anything temporarily better.
Signs of caregiver stress
As a caregiver, you may be so focused on your loved one that you don’t realize that your own health and well-being are suffering. Watch for these signs of caregiver stress:
- Feeling overwhelmed or constantly worried
- Feeling tired often
- Getting too much sleep or not enough sleep
- Gaining or losing weight
- Becoming easily irritated or angry
- Losing interest in activities you used to enjoy
- Feeling sad
- Having frequent headaches, bodily pain or other physical problems
- Abusing alcohol or drugs, including prescription medications
Too much stress, especially over a long time, can harm your health. As a caregiver, you’re more likely to experience symptoms of depression or anxiety. In addition, you may not get enough sleep or physical activity, or eat a balanced diet — which increases your risk of medical problems, such as heart disease and diabetes.
It is my sincere hope that this post has given you helpful and practical information that you can immediately put into practice. What you are dealing with isn’t easy, and your emotions are all valid. Just know that the fact that you are caring for someone in such a loving way is amazing, and you will get through this.