Caregivers Need Some “TLC” Too

Caring for a loved one can be very rewarding, but it also involves many stressors: changes in the family dynamic, financial pressure, challenges in navigating a complex healthcare system and a never-ending number of additional responsibilities. Is it any wonder that caregivers are prone to burnout? A study by the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP found that 15% of individuals who are caring for  someone identified a worsening of their own health and 35% reported emotional stress and strain.

Stress from caregiving can take a toll on your health, relationships, and state of mind. Common signs of caregiver stress include:

  • Anxiety, depression, irritability, guilt.
  • Feeling tired and run down even after sleeping or taking a break.
  • New or worsening health problems.
  • Feeling increasingly resentful.
  • Drinking, smoking, or eating more.

Caregiving can be a chronic, long-term challenge with years or even decades of caregiving responsibilities. The demands of caregiving can be overwhelming, especially if you feel you have little control over the situation or you’re in over your head. Which leads to the question: Who is caring for the caregivers?

CJE SeniorLife, keenly aware of the daunting responsibilities caregivers bear, provides support groups and consultants to help them. Your Eldercare Consultants, our team of geriatric care managers, regularly helps caregivers who are dealing with all types of seemingly insurmountable problems. They offer these valuable tips as a basic guide to those who give care:

  • Speak up. Don’t expect others to automatically know what you need or how you feel. Be up front with concerns, and have a list of small tasks that others can help you with.
  • Look into respite programs. There are adult day services or assisted living facilities that might be able to assist you with care on a periodic basis.
  • Divide the responsibility and divide up caregiving tasks. Assign financial or medical care responsibilities to different family members, if possible.
  • Give up some control. Don’t micro-manage or insist on always doing things your way.

Give yourself a break
You need to give yourself permission to rest and to do things that you enjoy on a daily basis. You will be a better caregiver for it.

  • Set aside a minimum of 30 minutes every day for yourself. Do whatever you enjoy doing—a hobby, an activity.
  • Make yourself laugh. Laughter is a remedy for stress and a little goes a long way.
  • Get out of the house. Take some time away from home or invite friends over to visit. It’s important that you interact with others.

Accept the things you cannot change
Don’t spend energy on things you can’t change. Instead focus on accepting the situation and looking for ways it can help you grow as a person.

Take charge of your health
Don’t add to the stress of your caregiving situation with avoidable health issues.

  • Keep on top of your own doctor visits. Don’t forget about your own health because you are caregiving.
  • Exercise. When you exercise regularly—suggested minimum 30 minutes most days—you’ll find it boosts your energy level.
  • Meditate. Daily relaxation through yoga, deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, or mindfulness meditation can help relieve stress and boost feelings of joy and well-being.
  • Eat well. Nourish your body with fresh fruit, vegetables, whole grains, beans, lean protein, and healthy fats such as nuts and olive oil.
  • Don’t skimp on sleep. Cutting back on sleep is counterproductive if your goal is to get more done. When sleep-deprived, your mood, energy, productivity, and ability to handle stress are affected.

Remember, don’t try to do it all alone. The website: YourEldercareConsultants.com has resources for caregivers. Please tap into those and our network of other services to help with your role as a caregiver.

This article is excerpted from a recent blog posting by Your Eldercare Consultants. To read more, go to the JUF website at: juf.org/news/blogs.aspx and look for the blog “The Caregiving Coach.”