As our country’s population ages and our health care system experiences many changes, such as shorter hospital stays, a growing number of people are becoming the caregiver for their loved ones. Many of these newly appointed caregivers have no experience at all at being a health care professional. The latest statistics state that more than 65 million Americans provide care to a loved one.
If you are a caregiver, you know that taking care of someone who needs your help can be very rewarding. Many caregivers feel that they must take care of everything themselves, which can result in caregiver stress consisting of the emotional and physical strain of caregiving. The human body is able to handle short bursts of stress and strain without compromising his or her health, but prolonged periods of stress can impact the body in a negative manner. The caregiver should watch for these signs of caregiver stress: feeling tired much of the time, feeling overwhelmed and irritable, sleeping too much or too little, gaining or losing a lot of weight, and losing interest in activities you used to enjoy. As a caregiver, a person is more likely to experience symptoms of depression or anxiety and may not get enough physical activity or eat a balanced diet, which only increases his or her risk of medical problems, such as heart disease and diabetes.
Some of the ways to deal with caregiver stress are to accept help whether that be from a friend or family member or by hiring a caregiver through a licensed and bonded agency such as CareBuilders at Home. Also, focus on what you are able to do for your loved one and don’t give in to the guilt if you can’t do it all. Remember no one is perfect, not even you! Thirdly stay connected with organizations in your community and/or at the local hospital that can help you learn more about your loved one’s specific disease diagnosis and how to deal with its symptoms. You can also join a support group that can prove to be a great source of encouragement and advice from others in similar situations, and you might even meet some new friends. Seek out social support in an effort to stay emotionally connected with family and friends and make it a point to get out of the house to take a breather. Don’t forget to set personal health goals to be physically active on most days of the week, set a goal to get a good night’s sleep, and be sure to eat a healthy diet. Lastly, see your doctor. Be sure to get your recommended immunizations and screenings, tell your doctor you are a caregiver and don’t forget to tell him or her any concerns or symptoms you are having. If you are your loved one’s caregiver and you get sick or hurt, who will take care of YOU.
Don’t fall into the trap of believing that you have to do everything by yourself. It is normal to need an extra set of hands, time for yourself, or someone to bounce ideas off of. Take advantage of the many resources and tools that are available to help you provide the best quality care for your loved one. It could save BOTH of your lives.