Caregivers: Are You Stressed?
Caregiving is a demanding job and can take a toll. Find out if you're suffering from caregiver stress and what you can do about it.

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Caregivers: Are You Stressed?

If you care for a family member or friend, you're not alone. More than 65 million Americans are principal caregivers. In fact, family and friends provide 80 percent of long-term home care. That number will grow as baby boomers enter old age and Americans live longer.

Caregiving is a tough job. You do it because your loved one needs you. But what about your needs? Who takes care of the caregiver?

Being a caregiver is demanding, physically and emotionally. Too often, caregivers may give so much that they shortchange themselves. They become overwhelmed and isolated. Their health suffers. So does their ability to give care. You need and deserve support so you can safeguard your own health while providing the care your loved one requires.

Are you under stress? Look at this simple list for things to consider if you're a caregiver. Answer "true" or "false" to the following statements:

 

True

False

I don't have enough time for myself and the things I enjoy.

   

Sometimes I feel angry or frustrated with my loved one.

   

I could do a better job of caring for my loved one.

   

Caregiving has taken a toll on my health.

   

I have very little privacy.

   

I feel burdened by my responsibilities.

   

Caregiving has strained my relationship with my loved one.

   

If you answered true to even one of these statements, you may be under stress from caregiving.

Here are some tips to help you get your stress under control:

Ask for help. Caregivers can fall into the trap of thinking they are the only one who can care for their loved one. This isn't so. Hold a family meeting and ask other family members to commit to helping. Neighbors and friends may also be a source of support.

When asking for help, be specific. For example, someone could provide care for an hour or two each week so you can do errands. You could ask someone to help with housework, lawn care or paying bills.

Make use of community resources. Many communities have services to support caregivers and their loved ones. These include adult daycare, respite care, home health aides or Meals on Wheels. Contact your local Area Agency on Aging, Department of Social Services or hospitals for information. To find your Area Agency on Aging, call the Eldercare Locator at 800-677-1116.

Many places of worship can also be a great source of support.

The American Red Cross' Family Caregiving Program may help. The program offers informative sessions on subjects such as home safety, healthy eating and financial issues. One session offers tips for caring for the caregiver. Contact your local chapter for details.

Become as knowledgeable as you can about your loved one's condition and what to expect as his or her caregiver. Knowledge is power. Other resources include: National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, Family Caregiver Alliance, MedlinePlus, National Caregivers Library, National Family Caregivers Association, Net of Care and Well Spouse Association.

Find a support group. Most caregivers say isolation is their biggest source of stress. Being able to talk to others who share your experiences can be helpful. Organizations like the Alzheimer's Association may host local support groups. Or check with local hospitals or senior centers.

Schedule time for yourself. This is not selfish. "Me time" is necessary for your mental and physical health. It can help you be a better caregiver. Have someone cover for you so you can pursue your hobbies, go to church or spend time with friends. Even finding half an hour to soak in the bathtub or go for a walk can help you recharge.

Take care of yourself. Your wellbeing is important. You won't be able to help your loved one or yourself if you become ill.

Be sure to eat a healthy diet, get some exercise and get regular checkups. Consider learning some ways to reduce stress, such as yoga, deep breathing or meditation. Talk to your doctor if you have symptoms of depression. Signs include feeling sad or hopeless, sleeping too little or too much, gaining or losing weight and not enjoying things you used to enjoy. Depression is a serious health problem and can be treated.

Give yourself credit. You're doing an important job. No one is perfect, but you should feel good about what you do.

Greg Breining contributed to this report.

By Lila Havens, Contributing Writer
Created on 11/02/2009
Updated on 01/09/2013
Sources:
  • National Alliance for Caregiving. Care for the family caregiver: A place to start.
  • Family Caregiver Alliance. Selected caregiver statistics.
  • Alzheimer's Association. Caregiver stress check.
  • American Red Cross. Caring for the caregiver.
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