The rate of caregiving in the U.S. has spiked from 16.6% in 2015 to 19.2% this year, and caregivers are also commonly caring for more than one individual at a time. America’s aging population is expanding the already existing deficit of professional caregivers, and many family members are having to intervene and provide care for those in their family that are in need of care. Approximately 1 in 3 adults in the United States provide care for other adults in their community in an informal caregiver role, and although this can be a rewarding task, it can also take an emotional toll.
Many caregivers become focused on those they are caring for and neglect their own health needs. Recognizing the warning signs of high-stress and burnout is critical for both the caregiver and the care receiver. Symptoms of stress can include:
- Feelings of anxiety or depression
- Extreme fatigue
- Disrupted sleep patterns that consist of both, not enough sleep or too much sleep, and a constant feeling of not being rested
- Weight gain/loss, or loss of interest in activities that you used to enjoy
- Reoccurring physical ailments such as chronic back pain, neck pain, headaches, and body aches
Living with stress and fatigue can be disruptive and impact one’s health in the long run. When unaddressed, stress can and will have a severe negative impact on the body. These five tools and tactics will help anyone caring for a loved one or client to give their best selves to provide stellar care.
Use technology to automate duties as often as you can. Medication reminders, prescription pre-sorting and delivery, communication aids, and even stairlifts can all help to decrease some caregiving duties. Some service providers will accept certain types of insurance and also provide financial assistance. If limited finances are an obstacle, exploring different funding sources might help you to find the help you need.
Make sure to take part in daily self-care practices. Taking at least an hour a day to decompress and care for yourself is a must to continue to be an effective caregiver. Planning out healthy meals and time to exercise and rest will help every caregiver bring their best self to what they do and the ones they care for and about.
Never think twice about asking for help. The best way to do so is to be as specific as possible. Making a list of your priorities and the areas you need assistance is where you should start your planning. Keep in mind that help may also not directly relate to the person you are caring for. You may be able to get more assistance in running your personal life, which will provide you with more time for yourself and provide care for your loved one. It’s important to think outside-the-box when working on a plan to delegate duties. Tasks can even be categorized into high, medium, and low priorities, which can help you fit specific tasks to certain individuals.
If you can, consider doing some form of mindful movement with those that you are caring for and make it a practice that everyone can do together. Mindful movement is a low-intensity way to get moving and helps those who practice it to harness the power of peace and relaxation. Movements can be done in a chair and creates a space to stop, reflect, and relax.
Finding a way to sort out feelings and hardships in a support group or with a mental health professional will help clear the murkiness that often builds up when caring for others. Keeping it all in can do more harm than good in the long run and having a safe space to talk through issues and receive constructive feedback is always a good idea. It is also critical to maintain your social life. Doing things that we enjoy energizes us and helps to refuel our energy that we spend every day.
Ultimately, every caregiver should remember that they are not alone, and there is support out there. It is just a matter of finding the right solutions that work for you. Many caregivers feel that it is more challenging to find help versus just “sucking it up.” Although it may be more work at first, it is always worth spending the time and energy to get the support you need to take care of you.
AARP and National Alliance for Caregiving. Caregiving in the United States 2020. Washington, DC: AARP. May 2020. https://doi.org/10.26419/ppi.00103.001
Thank you Megan Glenn for your excellent contribution! To learn more about Megan please visit https://meganwrites.co/