As a care manager, and a caregiver, for my own mother who has Alzheimer’s disease and is now in a nursing home, I’m deeply familiar with the demands that are part and parcel of that role. Even though millions of Americans will find themselves at some point caring for, or making healthcare decisions for, an aging parent, knowing where to turn for help isn’t easy. Navigating the healthcare system is often difficult, community support may be next to non-existent, and medical providers don’t always understand the challenges that families face.
What I’ve learned, and teach other families, is that it is not selfish to prioritize your own self-care. It is anything but. Caregiving has its joys and emotional rewards, but it also has stresses that can take a serious toll on a caregiver’s mental and physical health. It’s normal at times to feel isolated, angry, frustrated, and overwhelmed. But when there is no relief from pressures and responsibilities, caregivers may suffer from depression, anxiety, exhaustion, and even develop physical illnesses. Staying healthy and resilient benefits all concerned.
Respite care, either through a substitute caregiver or a program such as an adult day care center, is important to give caregivers a much-needed break. Other ways that caregivers can take care of themselves include:
- Joining a support group, if one exists in the community.
- Taking advantage of meal and grocery delivery and other non-medical home care services when possible.
- Hiring home cleaning services. Delegate tasks that others can handle.
- Carving out time each week to shut down from caregiving.
- Staying in contact with friends and reaching out to others who are supportive.
- Staying on top of your own health needs. Don’t neglect your own mental or physical health and see a healthcare provider if you’re feeling sick, anxious, depressed, have trouble sleeping or eating, or are due for a physical or other screenings.
- Setting boundaries with your time and energy. Learn to ‘just say no’ to requests that only put extra pressure on you.
Eating healthy foods and getting adequate sleep and exercise can also help you manage caregiver stress. I find that taking time off on the weekends to rest and recharge is helpful. I schedule pedicures and massages to enjoy moments when someone else is caring for me. Be kind to yourself and recognize that you’re doing the best that you can.
My company, Senior Transitions, helps families who are dealing with caregiver stress. If you would like to discuss your family’s needs, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or 850-894-6720 and we’ll be happy to help you.
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