If you take care of others, you need self-care too
According to the Family Caregiving Alliance, 46-59% of all caregivers suffer varying forms of clinical depression. Many are likely to have a poor diet, insomnia, no exercise and often postpone self-care appointments in the interest of their loved one’s care.
According to Mary Fox, a nurse practitioner with Aurora BayCare, there are factors to consider in the amount of harmful stress a caregiver can have.
- Desire to become a caregiver. Was there a desire to engage in the role at the onset of the need? This can set the stage for strain, distress or resentment that can sometimes occur during care.
- Previous experience with stress. Coping, adapted over time, can help you be flexible with the changing dynamics of being a caregiver. Isolating those strengths and weaknesses when you are not performing the role will help for the future. Recognize when you are not effectively coping; irritability, disrupted sleep and forgetfulness are signs that change is needed. Identify stressors and manage them in the best way possible for those you can change; for those that cannot be changed, focus on what you can control and take action.
- Level of care needed. Is the care long-term like dementia or short-term like a musculoskeletal ailment? Whichever it is, make sure to pace yourself so that you do not burn out.
- A good support system. As humans we do not have an endless amount of energy, so a good support system is crucial. Respite care can give a temporary break that both benefits you and the recipient. Consider accessing these services early during care, before you are exhausted, isolated, or overwhelmed by the responsibility of it all.
- Reaching out to insurance carriers including Medicaid/Medicare, care providers and your local aging resource center are great places to find out what respite services are available.
- If funding is a concern, funding may be available through the National Family Caregiver Support Program, which is administered through your local Area Agency on Aging.
“Caregivers who pay attention to their own physical and emotional health are better equipped to handle the challenges of taking care of someone with mental health issues,” says Fox. “The ups and downs of taking care of someone with mental health issues can have a lasting physical and emotional impact if we are not careful. Take charge of your care, not only for yourself, but also for the betterment of your loved ones.”
About the Author
Amy Werdin, health enews contributor, is a provider public affairs coordinator with Advocate Aurora Health. She has been with the organization for 19 years, starting out in marketing for Advanced Healthcare, then Aurora Health Care and now in her current role. She enjoys reading, movies and watching her two daughters dance and her son swim.