Millions of Americans are responsible for caring for their aging loved ones. In fact, it’s been estimated that around 80 percent of long-term care is informal– meaning that it’s provided by people who are not health care professionals. While caregiving can be an extremely rewarding and fulfilling experience for caregivers, it can also feel very stressful and isolating. Many informal caregivers admit to feeling caregiver stress, which can be both emotionally and physically debilitating. If you are providing long-term care to an elderly loved one, consider the following tips for coping with caregiver stress:
Accept help. Simply put: don’t try to do it all yourself. Stress is eased when the burden is shared with others, so don’t feel guilty about needing– or accepting– help. If help is not offered, speak up. Don’t expect friends and family members to read your mind; tell them how you feel and what they can do to help you out. Maybe one family member can be responsible for the weekly grocery shopping and another can handle the transportation to and from doctor’s appointments. Ask a neighbor to come and keep your loved one company while you have a coffee date with a friend.
Be mindful of your own health. As a caregiver, it’s often easy to get so caught up in the health of your loved one that you neglect your own health. Get routine physicals and voice any concerns you have to your doctor. Make exercise a priority; aim for 30 minutes of physical activity each day. Not only is exercise good for your physical health, it’s also a stress reliever and mood booster. Ensure that you’re getting enough sleep at night; sleep deprivation triggers stress and anxiety. Finally, be sure that you’re eating healthy. It might be tempting to load your body up with caffeine and sugar to provide you with an energy boost on those long days, but the inevitable crash is not worth it. Instead, choose foods that will provide your body with steady, consistent energy– think fruits, veggies, and lean protein.
Reach out for support. Caregiving can sometimes feel very isolating, but it’s important to know that you’re not alone. There are many support groups available for caregivers, filled with other people who can relate to the joys and challenges of the job. A support group is a good place to voice frustrations, get encouragement, share strategies, and form friendships. Support groups are available both in-person and online.
Know your resources. There are many resources available to help ease the burden of caregiver stress. These include meal delivery services, professional in-home care services, and adult day programs. Find out what resources are available in your community and reach out for more information.
If you’re currently caring for an elderly loved one and are experiencing caregiver stress, know that you’re not alone. Contact us to learn how we can help.