A caregiver is someone who helps another with daily basic tasks; someone who might be temporarily ill, disabled, or have long-term health problems. There are many forms of caregivers, professional and non-professional. Those who are paid, and those who go unpaid. Those who have volunteered their services, and those who have had a legal or familial obligations. Those who delight in caring for others, and those who struggle with the emotional and physical stress of caring for one another… or, in most cases- both!
It’s important for caregivers to understand that finding joy in caring for others and also recognizing one’s own emotional and physical needs are not mutually exclusive– there is a balance! It is normal to feel great about the care you provide as well as feel exhausted and in need of a break at the same time. Often, a caregiver never fully turns ‘off’ or is able to completely put their work aside. Developing strategies to practice intentional self-care is an important part of being an effective and healthy caregiver.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, about 1 in 4 Americans are caregivers. Grocery shopping, housework, getting dressed, taking and keeping track of medicine, light medical care such as cleaning wounds or giving shots, cooking food, transportation, managing services such as talking to doctors or paying bills… the list of tasks required of caretakers is lengthy! Most caregivers also have other jobs and spend an average of 24 hours a week caring for a loved one.
When you are caring for a loved one, you can be more susceptible to health risks; increased rates of cold and flu as well as arthritis, diabetes, and depression have been reported among caregivers. Aside from the aforementioned physical health risks, emotional or mental health risks are also a reality. Here are some signs you may be suffering from caregiver stress:
- Feeling angry or sad
- Feeling like it’s more than you can handle
- Feeling like you don’t have time to care for yourself
- Sleeping too much, or too little
- Having trouble eating, or eating too much
Essentially, if you are a caregiver and have noticed a drastic change in your normal habits or behaviors, it is time to seek some medical help to manage the stress you are experiencing. You can lower your risk for health problems if you have a good support system and target these symptoms early and consistently with either intentional self- care routines or medical assistance.
Prevention of Caregiver Stress, Depression, and Burnout is key; it will give you energy and drive to conquer the difficult tasks put forth in caregiving. Keeping a healthy diet, staying active, and maintaining a normal sleep schedule are 3 simple ways to practice self care. Find people to support you and also help in the caregiving. Perhaps a family member or friend might be willing to visit with your loved one while you take a walk or run some personal errands?
Caregivers: The staff at Burlington Healthcare understand the joys and burdens of caregiving; we seek to offer support for you and your loved ones by providing the best selection and highest quality home health care goods in Northern Kentucky. We urge you to practice self-care and also self-assessment if you feel like you need help or support in your caregiving journey.