There are over 40 million informal caregivers in the US, and most take care of an aging in place elderly relative. In addition to their caregiving duties the average family caregiver also manages a household and holds down a part-time job. Because it can be so demanding scores of unpaid caregivers experience physical and emotional problems as a result. For most, taking better care of themselves is an afterthought. If you’re currently serving as a senior caregiver starting a self-care program is vitally important for your continued health and wellbeing.
How Caregiving Affects Caregivers
Caregiver stress doesn’t discriminate based on age, race, ethnicity or socio-economic background. Whether you’re a member of the Sandwich Generation, single adult or concerned spouse, providing care to an aging loved one can have physical, emotional and mental consequences.
Many informal caregivers experience these problems:
- Poor eating habits and weight gain
- Sleep deprivation
- Fatigue and exhaustion
- Anxiety and depression
- Not exercising enough
- High blood pressure
- Weakened immune system
- Substance abuse (alcohol, drugs, tobacco, etc.)
Over time, a caregiver who’s feeling these effects is also more likely to withdraw from family and friends- placing a strain on those key relationships.
Self-Care Tips for Family Caregivers
No matter how hard you try you can’t stop the aging process or the progression of a chronic disease that your elderly loved one might have. On the other hand, using this self-care approach will help ensure that your- and your senior’s- quality of life remains high:
Identify Personal Barriers
If you don’t start taking care of yourself, you won’t be any good to the person you are providing care to. That’s a fact. Identify personal barriers that are keeping you from the self-care that’s needed. Replace those old patterns, attitudes and beliefs with new ones by first asking yourself these questions:
- Am I being too selfish if I put my needs first?
- Do I have trouble asking for what I need?
- Am I trying to earn my loved one’s affection by caring for them?
- Am I afraid to focus on my own needs? If so, why?
Caregiver misconceptions oftentimes get in the way of their self-care objectives. Don’t let negative thoughts and preconceived notions hold you back any longer.
Take Care of Your Body
Exercising regularly can help alleviate many of the health problems caused by caregiver stress- including stress itself! Exercise 3 to 5 times a week by taking long walks, swimming, doing aerobics or practicing Yoga.
Also be sure to eat a healthy diet, get 7 to 8 hours of sleep every day and to undergo a complete physical at least once a year. Don’t abuse alcohol, tobacco or drugs and seek professional counseling if anxiety and depression become a problem.
Stay Socially Engaged
Walling yourself off from friends and family members isn’t going to help and once your caregiving obligations are over, you’ll have to deal with the fallout from your actions. Instead, seek support through those key relationships and be sure to spend quality time together on weekend getaways, family vacations or maybe even over a cup of coffee.
Ask for Help
Asking for help doesn’t make you a failure. Even professional caregivers have-to take a break on occasion so they can stay recharged and refreshed. When you’re starting to feel rundown here are some potential sources of caregiving assistance:
- Community volunteers that work with the elderly
- Adult daycare
- Trusted family members, friends and neighbors
- Senior transportation services
- Meal delivery services
- A professional caregiver from a licensed home care agency
Family Trusted Care for Seniors in New Hampshire
Staying recharged while caring for an aging in place loved one can be challenging. When you need to take a well-deserved break contact Home Healthcare, Hospice & Community Services (HCS). Our highly trained home caregivers stand ready to serve as an extended family in your senior’s home so they can stay safe and comfortable right where they want to be.
Our carefully screened professionals deliver family trusted services which enable people to function throughout life at their optimal level of health, well-being and independence, according to their personal beliefs and choices. To learn more now about our compassionate home care services and flexible programs, or to schedule a FREE consultation for a senior throughout southwestern New Hampshire, today, please visit Home Healthcare, Hospice & Community Services at: www.hcsservices.org!