Self-Care for Caregivers: Tips for Letting go of Stress
Are you providing care for a friend or relative 65 and older who needs help with daily activities? Then you know that being a caregiver is one of the most rewarding experiences of a lifetime, but it can also be physically and emotionally exhausting. This is especially true when providing care for someone with Alzheimer’s disease or other form of dementia. The strain of providing care to a friend or family member can lead to caregiver stress. Fortunately, a little self-care for caregivers can go a long way in alleviating stress.
What Caregiver Stress Looks Like
Caregivers support individuals who have an injury, disability or illness such as dementia. Many of these caregivers are family members or friends, not professionals. They’re known as informal caregivers that provide help with activities of daily living, such as bathing, dressing and eating.
Many of these caregivers also provide higher levels of support. In a Pew Research Center survey, nearly half said they gave injections or managed medications daily. Many caregivers also manage other aspects of everyday life, such as scheduling activities, paying bills and making health decisions. This level of responsibility is stressful.
Caregiving is time-consuming, too, which adds to the stress. Many caregivers provide help or are “on call,” almost all day and sometimes into the night. To make matters more complicated, nearly three in five family caregivers have paid jobs outside of their caregiving services, with 70 percent dealing with work-related problems caused by their dual role. This leaves little time for relaxation, hobbies, interaction with other friends and family members or other activities that can reduce stress.
Caregivers also report a higher level of stress than do people who are not caregivers, according to the U.S. Department of Human Health Services’ Office on Women’s Health. Their research has also found:
- Women are more likely to report stress and other health problems than male caregivers, although anyone can experience caregiver stress
- Caregivers who support a friend or relative with Alzheimer’s disease or other form of dementia are more likely to experience health problems and symptoms of depression than are those who provide care for people without dementia
- Women who take care of spouses are more likely to have high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes. They also have twice the risk for heart disease compared to women who provide care for parents, children or other family members
10 Self-Care Tips for Letting Go of Caregiver Stress
Taking care of yourself allows you to take better care of your friend or relative. Self-care for caregivers also helps you enjoy the rewards of caregiving. Here are 10 tips that will help caregivers address their own needs and reduce the stress in their lives so they can be happier and healthier personally as well as more attentive caregivers.
1. Recognize the Signs and Symptoms of Caregiver Stress
Realizing that you’re stressed is the first step to caring for yourself. Signs and symptoms of caregiver stress include:
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Feeling isolated and alone
- Sleep problems, such as sleeping too little or too much
- Weight gain or loss
- Feeling tired most of the time
- Losing interest in your favorite activities
- Becoming easily angered or irritated
- Feeling sad or worried
- Headaches or body aches
Once you recognize your symptoms, start a self-care regime that will help alleviate the strain in your life. The other tips on this list can help.
2. Get Organized
Being scattered and disorganized can cause more work and stress. Get organized by setting a daily routine, creating calendars and making lists. As you get more organized, you’ll likely save time that you can use to care for yourself and your needs.
3. Schedule Time for Yourself
Carving out time for yourself and your life is essential to reducing stress. You are just as important as the person you’re caring for. So go to a movie, treat yourself to a nice meal or enjoy your favorite hobby. Spend time with family and friends, doing the things you enjoy.
4. Exercise Regularly
The National Institute on Aging has found that physical activity can ease stress, reduce feelings of depression and prevent chronic diseases. Exercise at home or at your local gym, aiming for about 30 minutes of exercise each day. If 30 minutes feels like a lot, you can split across three 10-minute workouts rather than doing it all at once. You can even save time and improve your results by finding ways to be active with the person for which you provide care, such as going for a walk in the park if they’re able.
5. Eat Nutritious Meals
Choose healthy foods, as poor nutrition can negatively affect your mind, body and immune system. Nutritious food gives you the energy you need to take optimal care of your friend or family member. Try to eat fresh fruits and vegetables in whole food format, meaning they haven’t been heavily processed, as these are often the healthiest and most beneficial choices.
6. Get Enough Sleep
Getting enough sleep is important to your health and will help you provide the best care to your friend or relative. Sleep also helps you fight off colds and flu, keeps your blood pressure in check, improves your emotional health and lessens your risk of depression and other mental health conditions. A good night’s sleep can even help you think clearly in the stressful situations that often come up in caregivers’ lives.
7. Get Regular Health Checkups
Regular visits to the doctor keep your health at its best. Be sure to tell your doctor or nurse that you are a caregiver and if you have any symptoms of illness or depression. They can help provide specific recommendations to stay healthy and reduce your stress that fit your current health condition.
8. Join a Caregiver Support Group
You are not alone in your caregiving responsibilities or the stress they cause. More than 34 million Americans have provided unpaid care in the past year. More than 15 million family caregivers provided care for someone who has Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia, so there are many people with experiences similar to your own. Look for a support group with caregivers who provide care for someone with the same illness or disability as your friend or relative. Support groups are great places to share experiences, pick up tips and get support from people facing similar challenges.
9. Ask For and Accept Help
Even the best caregivers cannot do it alone all the time – and you shouldn’t have to. Challenge yourself to ask for help and be open to accepting assistance when you do. Make a list of things you need help with and let your support network choose what they would like to do. For example, you can ask someone to pick up groceries for you or to sit with the person in your care while you run errands.
10. Look Into Senior Care
Senior care, such as assisted living or personal care and memory care, can provide a safe, comfortable and low-stress environment for your friend or family member. Personal care home professionals provide a variety of services to residents, such as daily living assistance, 24-hour support and health monitoring, emergency bathroom response systems, personalized wellness programs, home health and visiting physicians, concierge services, security and more.
For those supporting an individual with dementia, it may help to look into memory care services early, as there will more than likely be a time that your relative needs more support than you can provide.
Finding Support in Georgia
For more information about self-care for caregivers and personal care home services in Kennesaw, GA, contact Heritage of Brookstone. We make senior living in West Cobb County easier, healthier and less stressful for adults and caregivers alike. The Heritage of Brookstone retirement community offers a holistic approach to wellness that helps you and the people you care for live life to the fullest, including personal care services and memory care services.