You've taken care of your mom in your own home for two years, but you never imagined the fatigue and stress you would be feeling. You fear that If you don't get some relief soon, you're going to burn out.
This situation is all too common. When caregiving, “you'll have less time for yourself, feel angry about the situation, concerned about your own health and feeling guilty when you take time for yourself," said John Schnall, CEO of Caregiver Action Network.
As the country's population ages, more and more family members are taking on greater caregiving responsibilities. According to the latest data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are more than 40.4 million unpaid caregivers of adults ages 65 and older in the United States, and nine in 10 are providing care for an aging relative.
“We're going to run into a caregiving cliff," Schnall predicted. “More family members will be called into the role."
For those now in a caregiving role, there are a number of ways to reduce stress and look out for your own well-being. Here are 8 tips:
- Take care of yourself. Set aside some personal time to do something enjoyable, whether it's getting together with friends, exercising, going out to lunch or dinner, or seeing movie. Be sure to attend to your own health care needs.
- Accept help from your friends. When friends ask, “What can I do," make a suggestion: “I could really use some help mowing the lawn" or “I would really like a home-cooked meal" or “I need help for an hour or two while I do errands."
- Take respite breaks. If you need to recharge, find a relative to fill in for you so you can take time off for a day or two, or retain a home health aide on a regular basis to give you a breather.
- Look for signs of your own depression. A caregiver is twice more likely to experience depression than others in the general population. A wife caring for her husband is six times more likely to suffer depression. Find a professional or a close friend to talk to and consider new ways to cope with your situation or change the dynamic.
- Join a caregiver support group – either in person or online. Check with your clergy to see if your congregation offers assistance. Hold family meetings to talk out problems and enlist help, or check with community organizations that bring people together who are in your situation.
- Consider adult day care: Many communities have adult day care facilities with trained staff who will supervise your relative for several hours a day or even longer, and provide activities from art, singing to games to exercise.
- Organize medical information. To eliminate unnecessary anxiety and confusion, make a chart listing all of your loved one's medicine and times it should be taken. Print out a copy to take to doctor appointments, and also make a separate list of all doctors, phone numbers and emails for yourself.
- Eat healthy. You may go to a lot of trouble making sure your loved one gets good meals, but you may be shortchanging yourself. Take time to prepare nutritious meals for yourself, or find a local service that can deliver healthy food.