Family caregivers are special people. They make time in their busy schedules to care for elderly loved ones, and often put their own lives—and health—on hold. Their intentions are wonderful, even admirable. But providing help to elderly family member, especially one with dementia or a physical disability, can be super stressful and exhausting and can also lead to serious health problems if left unchecked.
Signs and symptoms to watch for: anxiety, irritability, difficulty sleeping, trouble concentrating, low energy levels, feeling helpless, excessive eating or drinking, avoiding leisure activities, and feeling resentful.
Here are a few tips for dealing with caregiver stress and burnout:
- Ask for help. Speak up. Say yes when someone offers assistance. Be willing to relinquish some control.
- Give yourself a break. Get out of the house. Make yourself laugh. Take a long walk or a hot bath.
- Practice acceptance. Try to avoid feeling sorry for yourself or placing blame. Focus on the things you can control. Share your feelings with a friend or therapist.
- Take care of your health. Exercise. Eat well. Get lots of sleep. (No surprises here.)
- Join a support group. This is a great way to connect with others in similar situations. Support groups can be available locally (check the yellow pages or talk to your doctor or hospital) and online.
Caregivers need care too. You need to be healthy to care for someone else. But most importantly, you deserve to be healthy.
For more information about self-care for family caregivers, visit http://www.caregiveraction.org/_doc/pdf/CaregiverStress.pdf.