What family caregivers can do to alleviate stress and take care of themselves.
As a family caregiver, you tend to be primarily focused on your loved one, and you don’t always realize that your own health and well-being could be suffering.
It’s important that you watch for these common signs of caregiver stress:
- Feeling overwhelmed or constantly worried
- Feeling tired often
- Getting too much (or not enough) sleep
- Drastic changes in weight
- Becoming easily irritated or angry
- Losing interest in activities you used to enjoy
- Feeling sad much of the time
- Having frequent headaches or other physical pains
- Abusing alcohol or drugs, including prescription medications
Studies have shown that family caregivers are more likely to experience symptoms of depression or anxiety. Too much stress, especially over a long period of time, can harm your health. This stress and feelings of being overwhelmed can impact your quality of sleep, levels of physical activity, and/or your diet — which increases your risk of medical problems, such as heart disease and diabetes.
When you’re constantly worried about someone else, you don’t always spot what’s happening with your own emotional and physical well-being. It is important to recognize the caregiver stress you are feeling and address it early to help prevent future health problems. By caring for yourself you will, in turn, take better care of your loved one and enjoy your life as a family caregiver.
Here are some tips to help you prevent or manage caregiver stress:
- Learn ways to better help your loved one. For example, some senior centers and hospitals offer classes that educate you on how to care for someone with an injury or chronic illness. To find these classes, ask your doctor.
- Find caregiving resources in your community to help you with your companion care and personal care responsibilities. Many communities have adult daycare services or respite services to give primary caregivers a break from their daily caregiving duties.
- Ask for and accept help. Make a list of ways others can assist you. Let family members choose how they can jump in and help. For instance, someone might sit with the person you care for while you run an errand. Someone else might pick up groceries for you. If family and friends are not available, investigate services, like FirstLight Home Care’s Companion Care program to help with light housekeeping and laundry, grocery shopping, meal preparation, errands, transportation and more.
- Join a support group for caregivers. You can find general family caregiver support groups or groups of caregivers who care for someone with the same illness or disability as your loved one. You can share stories, pick up caregiving tips, and get support from others who may face the same challenges as you.
- Get organized. Make to-do lists and set a routine to help you accomplish your daily goals.
- Take time for yourself. Stay in touch with family and friends and continue to do the things you enjoy. It’s important to take breaks. Respite care allows you to take some time off from your responsibilities as a primary caregiver so you can focus on yourself for a while. While you’re away, professional caregivers are there to make sure your loved one is taken care of, even if it’s just for a few hours.
- Take care of your health. Find time to be physically active most days of the week, choose healthy foods, and get plenty of sleep.
- See your doctor for regular checkups. Regular wellness visits can help prevent future health problems, so make sure you are seeing your own doctor as well. Tell your doctor or nurse you are a caregiver and share with them the potential stress you are experiencing.
If you’re like many caregivers, asking your family and friends to help can be difficult. Unfortunately, not asking can lead to feeling isolated, frustrated and even depressed. Don’t struggle on your own, take advantage of our local FirstLight Home Care caregivers. They are here to help you with the care of your loved one and you.
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We are proud to CHAMPION the family caregiver, offering empathy, advice, and support for those who provide countless hours of care to their loved ones. At FirstLight Home Care we want to provide a helping hand, relieve some of the stress that comes with caregiving and give you back a few hours in your overwhelmingly busy day.
Women’s Health: www.womenshealth.gov
Help Guide: www.helpguide.org
Alzheimer’s Association: www.alz.org