Caring for a loved one is one of life’s highest honors. According to a study at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, most caregivers say they developed a better relationship with the person they cared for, gained a heightened appreciation of life, found hidden strengths and felt a sense of accomplishment.
On the flip side, caregiving can be physically and emotionally draining and many caregivers report problems attending to their own health and well-being while managing caregiving responsibilities.
Family caregivers are at an increased risk for stress, burnout, and a host of other maladies including depression, substance abuse, chronic illness and obesity. If you or someone you know is a caregiver, here are some important things to look for and solutions to help with self-care moving forward.
Common signs and symptoms of caregiver stress and burnout
- Feeling tired and run down
- New or worsening health problems
- Difficulty sleeping
- Excessive drinking, smoking, or eating
- Feeling increasingly resentful
- Trouble concentrating
- Overreacting to minor nuisances
- Anxiety, depression, irritability
- Neglecting responsibilities
- Cutting back on leisure activities
- Very low energy
- Weakened immune system; getting sick a lot
- Constant exhaustion, even after sleeping or taking a break
- Displaying addictive behaviors
- Unable to experience satisfaction with life
- Trouble relaxing even when help is available
- Growing impatience and irritability with the care recipient
- Feeling helpless and hopeless
- Lack of motivation and enthusiasm
- Neglectful of own needs, due to workload or apathy
Strategies to help improve self-care
- Acknowledge and embrace your choice to be a caregiver.
- Focus on what you can control and the way you choose to react to problems.
- Make time for things you enjoy to bring yourself happiness. Small doses of joy can make a big difference in your overall well-being.
- Remember to laugh, watch a show, read a book and find humor in the everyday.
- Get out of the house. Spending time with friends, family or by yourself can give you perspective and peace of mind.
Make your health a priority
- Exercise regularly, even if only for 10 minutes at a time.
- Learn and use stress-reduction techniques such as deep breathing, mindfulness, meditation and prayer.
- Don’t skip check-ups or medical appointments and be sure to mention you are a caregiver.
- Nurture yourself by eating well and maintaining good sleep habits.
Ask for and accept help
- Locate community resources to lighten your load. Respite care, adult day care, chore services, meal delivery, transportation and a variety of other resources are willing and able to help you.
- Develop open communications with your family to create a clearer understanding of the situation and how they may be able to help you.
- Join a caregiver support group either locally or online and benefit from a safe place to discuss the stresses, challenges and rewards of providing care for a loved one.
Your program is here to help you along the journey of life. No situation is too big or too small. When you and your household members need assistance, reach out anytime and we will help get you on the right path to meet your needs.
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