1 in 3 adults in the U.S. serves as a caregiver, providing support to a loved one in need of assistance. Without a doubt, this is an important role and can be extremely rewarding. It’s important to recognize that caregiving can be physically, mentally, and emotionally demanding.
When caring for others takes center stage, caregivers often forget to take care of themselves. Just like being on an airplane, we have to put our own oxygen masks on before assisting those next to us. In other words, to be the best caregiver you can be, and to protect your own long-term health and wellbeing, it’s important to make self-care a priority.
Recognizing Signs of Built Up Stress
Caregiving can bring joy, and fulfillment as you tend to the needs of a loved one and at the same time can be overwhelming and stressful. These feelings can be magnified if you’re simultaneously focused on a career or raising a family. It’s important to recognize the signs that pent up stress may be causing in your life. These signs may include:
- Headaches, body aches
- Disruption in sleep patterns
- Digestive issues
- Weight gain or loss
- Having a short fuse; being quick to anger or irritation
- Losing interest in activities or hobbies that once brought you joy
- Reliance on alcohol, drugs, or prescription medications
If not addressed, the implications of this stress load can be serious. The Family Caregiver Alliance reports caregivers experience higher levels of stress, anxiety, and depression. Studies also show that caregivers are less likely to seek regular medical care for themselves and experience twice the rate of chronic conditions, including heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and arthritis.
Tips for taking care of yourself while caring for a loved one
Ask for help
It can be difficult to ask for help, especially if you feel as though all of the responsibility is on your shoulders. People are often eager to help when asked. Identify a few tasks that would lighten your load and call on a friend for assistance. They will appreciate having the opportunity to support you, and you will benefit from having a little extra space to breathe.
Make it a point to reach out and maintain connections to friends and family. Seek out a support group in the community or access local resources. You are not alone in what you are experiencing. Others in your shoes may have new ideas and strategies for caregiving and self care.
Make health basics a priority
Eating and sleeping can become background tasks when we feel stressed. Or, we can rely on sleep and food too much. Be intentional about maintaining a nourishing and balanced diet. If for nothing else, do it for the energy you need for your loved one. Work to prioritize exercise and sleep, which can both dramatically reduce stress.
Reinstate old routines
What did you do before you were a caretaker? Did you go to the gym at 5 a.m.? Maybe you enjoyed lunch with friends once a week? Whatever it was, if you sacrificed “your thing” to be present for the person you’re taking care of, incorporating it back into your life in some capacity can be beneficial. Not only does it provide a break, but it can also give you further motivation in your day.
Talk with your doctor
While you are caring for a loved one, it’s important to have others looking out for you. This begins with your physician. Get regular checkups, stay up on your vaccinations, and let your doctor know that you are a caregiver. Talk openly with him/her about how it’s going and any concerns you may have.
Allow yourself a break with Respite Care
As a caregiver, taking a break can have a positive effect on your physical and mental health. Think of it this way: businesses offer vacation time for a reason. People come back feeling refreshed, renewed and reenergized.
To support caregivers looking to recharge, Clark offers Respite Care. Your loved one will stay in one of our furnished suites for a short period of time and receive excellent care from our experienced, caring staff. They will also enjoy Clark’s activities and amenities throughout their stay. With Respite Care, you can take the time you need to recharge best worry-free.
Learn more about Respite Care
If you are considering Respite Care for a loved one, we’d love to give you a tour of our community. Give us a call at 616-278-6520 or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and one of our staff members will get in touch with you right away.