The basic definition of caregiving is to provide support and help to a person in need, whether that person is a spouse, aging relative or disabled person. More than 65 million Americans are caregivers, and with the rapidly aging population, many caregivers have no professional health care training at all.
While caring for a loved one can be a positive and rewarding experience, it’s also quite common for caregivers to report feeling varying degrees of stress. Caregiving can take an emotional and physical toll on those providing the care. Many caregivers can find themselves at risk for health problems of their own, as well as facing exhaustion, depression and social isolation.
Signs of Caregiver Stress
You should consider seeking caregiver support if you notice any of these signs:
- Changes in mood.
- Not getting enough sleep- or sleeping too much.
- Having very low energy levels.
- Feeling irritable or overwhelmed.
- Trouble eating/changes in your weight.
- Losing interest in activities or hobbies you previously always enjoyed.
- Seeing less of friends and family.
- Feeling anger at the person you are caring for or others.
Negative stress can harm your health, and if you aren’t taking care of yourself you won’t be able to help anyone else. Even the most resilient person can be affected by the emotional and physical demands that caregiving requires.
Ways to Reduce Caregiver Stress
In order to manage caregiver stress, you first need to recognize the signs above. Being aware of the symptoms can help you to avoid a stress overload and health crisis of your own. Take advantage of the different caregiver support systems available. Other successful ways to help lower caregiver stress include:
- Joining a support group. A support group can offer a great way to meet new friends who are going through a similar experience as you. It also provides a chance for you to let off some steam and get advice from others.
- Seeking respite care. American Senior Communities offers respite care, which allows caregivers a short-term break from their caregiving responsibilities.
- Accepting help from others. There is no shame in accepting help from friends or family members when they offer. In fact, you should be prepared with a list of ways that you can utilize the extra help, and don’t be afraid to approach others for it, either.
- Maintaining your own physical health. Make sure you are eating right, exercising often and getting enough sleep. Set some goals to ensure that you stay physically active every day, even if that means simply taking a walk with your loved one.
- Staying socially connected with family and friends. Social isolation can lead to depression, and many caregivers find it difficult to get out of the house and spend time with friends. Set aside time every week, even if all you can manage is an hour away to get coffee or socialize. Maintaining a strong support system is crucial to help manage your stress.
- Taking it easy on yourself. Caregivers can tend to feel guilty about the level of care they are able to provide their loved ones. Remember that no one is perfect, and you are doing the best job you possibly can. The main thing to keep in mind is that you are there during this time when your loved one needs you.
For more information about American Senior Communities, please visit www.asccare.com.