Learn to Handle Caregiver Stress and Take Care of Yourself
Respite care can provide a self-care solution for family caregivers and provide them with time to focus on mental health.
Are you a caregiver? Do you look after an ailing spouse, a disabled child, or an aging parent? As a caregiver, you help another person perform or access tasks and functions that they, for various reasons, cannot access by themselves.
Most caregivers within the family help out of love and a desire to be there for a loved one. As a caregiver, you are happy to help and find it rewarding to care for a loved one. Most family caregivers do it informally and free of charge. However, paid, professional, and licensed caregivers are also available if caregivers need respite support.
As populations age, many people require home care. In the USA, approximately one in three adults care for other adults informally in-home. Most of these caregivers are not health care professionals.
While caregiving is rewarding, it can prove stressful. In a paper titled Physical and Mental Health Effects of Family Caregiving, Richard Schulz, Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh, advances that caregiving can be stressful. Caregiving bears all the hallmarks of a stressful condition.
Other studies confirm that caregivers are at an increased risk of developing depression and anxiety. Caregivers are exposed to psychological and physical strain for long periods, in unpredictable situations that they cannot control.
However, it's good to note that caregiving also delivers benefits for the caregiver. In a study involving large populations, Richard Schulz and others stated that about one-third of caregivers suffered no negative health effects. The caregivers reported that caregiving made them feel needed and gave meaning to their lives.
Nonetheless, as a caregiver, you can experience a change in emotions. You may feel angry, sad, isolated, or exhausted. That's caregiver stress. Look out for the following signs:
- Feeling tired and overwhelmed.
- Sleeping too much or too little.
- Overeating or losing your appetite.
- Loss of interest in things you used to enjoy.
- Feeling restless and irritable.
- Unintentional weight loss or weight gain.
- Health symptoms that don't respond to treatment.
Don't ignore these signs. Seek help. You need to take care of yourself as well as the person you look after.
Below are some strategies for handling caregiver stress:
Don't try to do everything. Ask family and friends to help with running errands, cooking, and other chores. They could even spend time with the person you care for, so that you can have a break and do something for yourself.
Set your priorities
Decide what is important and make lists. Establish routines that suit you and the person you care for, and learn to turn down unreasonable requests from family or friends. Do your best in every situation and believe in yourself.
Seek emotional support
Connect with non-judgmental family and friends with whom you can talk. Join a support group for caregivers in a similar situation. Such people will understand what you're going through and can offer emotional support.
Seek out in-home care services for support
Some in-home care providers, such as Comfort Keepers, provide respite care services that can help family caregivers focus on their own family responsibilities and/or have a much-needed break from caregiving. This can provide family caregivers with the time necessary to re-charge and provide the highest-quality care to their loved one.
While caring for a senior loved one is rewarding, it can be stressful. Don't be shy to ask for help, take regular breaks from your caregiving duties, and make use of the resources available in your community. You're not alone. Don't struggle alone. Share the load and take care of yourself.
Are you a family caregiving in need of support? Comfort Keepers is here to help you! Contact us to learn more about our respite care services.