If you're a caregiver, keeping up with your loved one's needs can be overwhelming. There's so much to do: scheduling doctors' appointments, maintaining medication logs, making meals, doing laundry, helping with dozens of logistical details and being on-call 24/7 just in case. And while being a caregiver can be rewarding, it’s also exhausting.
Most caregivers experience high levels of stress, whether they're caring for children with serious conditions or elderly parents or a loved one with a debilitating illness. And while it may seem natural to focus all of your energy toward helping your loved one during a crisis or short-term situation, neglecting your needs over time will catch up with you. It can also affect your loved one – when the stress takes a toll on your well-being, it can be difficult to provide care.
Many caregivers experience burnout, which includes signs such as:
There are multiple ways to lower stress, from scaling back your responsibilities to making self-care a priority to getting the emotional support you need. Learn how you can make caregiving easier:
The top priority in alleviating caregiver stress is cutting back your to-do list. You can accomplish this in a few ways, such as:
Dont be shy about asking family and friends for assistance helping your loved one. Most people want to help but aren't sure what to do. Make a list of things others can do and let them choose what tasks to take on.
If you're financially able, paying for household services and a home health aide can make a huge difference in your workload. You can:
Home health aides have varying credentials and assist your loved one for a certain number of hours per week, depending on your needs. A home health aide can help your loved one with:
See what options are available in your community:
Most caregivers tend to put themselves on the back burner. You might delay going to the doctor for your own health needs, start skipping meals or decide to put social plans on hold indefinitely.
Perhaps you spend all day and night at the hospital or in the house so you can be close to your loved one. And while your devotion is admirable, ignoring your physical and emotional needs can quickly lead to caregiver burnout.
Attending to your needs isn't selfish. Think of it as another thing you do for your loved one so you can continue to feel your best and provide care for them. Getting proper nutrition, rest and exercise is essential. And taking a break from the hospital or the house is a great mood booster. Stroll through the hospital gardens, go for a walk or meet with a friend for lunch.
Other simple ways to care for your health include:
One of the hardest things to deal with as a caregiver is feeling alone. But there's a huge group of people going through the same challenges as you: More than 34 million Americans are unpaid caregivers.
It's easy to become isolated and feel down when you're wrapped up with caring for your loved one: 40 to 70 percent of caregivers have symptoms of depression. That's why it’s important to connect with others who can provide emotional support:
Franciscan Health offers a variety of support groups for caregivers. Search for a support group near you.
When you look after someone, you're giving them a tremendous gift. By finding ways to relieve some of the pressures of caregiving, you can enjoy time spent with your loved one, too.