According to the CDC, more than 25% of Americans reported that they have provided care or assistance to someone with a long-term illness or disability in the last 30 days—yet many feel unprepared for their role, and provide care with little or no support. 61% of these family caregivers already have jobs of their own outside of their caregiving responsibilities. Sometimes family caregivers’ own mental and physical health is low on their list of priorities.
If you’re one of the millions of people providing care to someone you love, there are several things you can do to reduce your workload. The first is to create a plan of action on how to deal with added stress in your life. If you don’t know where to start, a Care Manager like Eliso Papaladze can help. People who take action to combat stress as opposed to ignoring it or falling into a feeling of helplessness are better able to deal with it. Here are seven tips to help caregivers beat the stress of caregiving.
Become educated. Learn all you can about your loved one’s health conditions. This will allow you to know what may lie ahead so you can create action plans to mitigate the challenges. Some of the best sources of information are organizations dedicated to specific diseases, such as the Alzheimer’s Association, the American Heart Association, the American Cancer Society, the American Lung Association, and the National Parkinson Foundation. Their websites may also provide information about support groups in your area, which can be a tremendous source of emotional assistance.
Share your situation with others. If you have children, explain to them what’s going on. Explain that while you may be less available for them, you still love them and are interested in what’s happening in their lives. If you work, talk to your employer about creating a work schedule that accommodates your caregiving duties. Let coworkers know you’re still available to assist but may need some additional time.
Take advantage of community resources. There are numerous governmental and volunteer groups that may be able to provide some assistance. Care managers can help family caregivers and their loved ones navigate and utilize these resources.
Share your feelings with someone you trust. Often, just being able to talk to someone—a friend or a trained therapist—about what’s going on can make a huge difference in a caregiver’s well-being. Not only will the act of sharing help reduce some stress, but the person you talk to may have suggestions on how to help ease the stress you’re facing.
Create some “me” time. Make your own needs a priority. If this makes you feel guilty, recognize that to be an effective caregiver, you need to be healthy, alert and fully present. This can only happen if you’re taking care of your own needs—whether that’s spending some time with family and friends, going to see a movie, or taking a walk at a local park. It helps to establish boundaries with the person you’re caring for. Let them know exactly when you’re available to assist and when you’re not.
Be gentle with yourself. Caregiving can be a roller coaster of emotions. You may feel sadness at the changes in your loved one. You may feel some anger or resentment at the role you have taken on and that it’s taking time away from your career or other family members. Acknowledge these feelings and understand they are completely normal and part of the role of being a caregiver.
Ask for help. Don’t be afraid to lean on family and friends, even if it’s just to run by the pharmacy to pick up a prescription or stop by the grocery store for food. And there may come a time when the level of care you are able to provide is no longer enough. That’s when a care manager like Eliso Papaladze, MSW, can be a tremendous resource. She is a Certified Dementia Practitioner (CDP) with over ten years of expert home care experience helping her clients and their families navigate their care options and providing direction and support in all aspects of aging and geriatric care management. Contact her to learn more.