Protectors. Caregivers. Heroes. These are the many labels that can be attached to about 34.2 million Americans who have provided unpaid care to an adult age 50 or older in the last 12 months.
Whether buying groceries, assisting with finances, managing medications, transporting to medical appointments or helping with showering and dressing, caregiving can be a highly rewarding experience. As the life expectancy of Americans continues to grow, that job of nurturing loved ones who many not be able to fully take care of themselves becomes even more of a necessity and something most of us will participate in.
According to the Pew Research Center, a majority of family members or friends who are the front line for health care do it at no cost – for the loved ones. But what toll does it take on the actual caregiver?
Many Capital Senior Living communities across the country offer support groups not only for residents but for their family members who double as caregivers, protectors and heroes. These organizations often host events within the community so attendees can share their success stories and triumphs as well as share their challenges to people who are in similar situations. The one big tip stressed during any of these sessions: Don’t forget yourself. Too many caregivers get so wrapped up in caring for their loved ones that they neglect themselves.
With the right help and balance of selfless vs. selfish time, it is possible to be a great caregiver without sacrificing yourself in the process. Here are some tips on getting the support you need in this role while at the same time caring for a loved one:
Make time for yourself: Caregiving can consume most of the hours in your day, so it is imperative to schedule some personal time to do something you enjoy. Clear your head by reading a book in a bubble bath. Run a few errands that you haven’t been able to get to in a while. Buy yourself something nice. Get outside and take a 30-minute walk to enjoy nice temperatures.
Set reasonable goals: Just because you are now dedicating more of your time caring for a loved one does not mean you should forget about your personal goals or resolutions. Spend a few hours on a weekend and write down goals, steps to reach the goals and timelines for each task.
Be responsible for your care: The National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP note that more than half, 53 percent actually, of caregivers say their health has gotten worse because of having to take care of their loved one. If you are feeling sick, don’t neglect making an appointment for yourself to see a doctor. Also, don’t forget about health maintenance. Keep your regularly scheduled dentist appointments or yearly checkups with the family doctor.
Manage your emotions: Nearly 30 percent of Americans who are caregivers say they have trouble keeping their physical stress in check, according to NAC. It is perfectly normal as a caregiver to feel overworked and overly emotional. These feelings don’t mean that you don’t love what you are doing for your loved one but instead could be an indicator that a break is necessary. That’s where the support groups at many of our Capital Senior Living communities can assist.
Ask for help: It’s not always easy, but it is necessary. Reach out to other family members or friends to assist with duties that you just can’t fit into a schedule. Don’t forget about church friends and health professionals. It might surprise you how the simplest of requests – “can you pick up an extra loaf of bread or drop off shirts at the dry cleaner’s” – can save you time and stress.
Get away for a short time: Schedule a short vacation for yourself to get out of town for a few days or week while taking advantage of respite care services offered at many of our Capital Senior Living communities. Services are based on availability and afford residents temporary, spacious apartments with access to all of a community’s services, amenities and features. Our positive, vibrant environments are ideal for seniors who may need some level of temporary support in the absence of a caregiver. Contact us for information.
It is not selfish to focus on you for a bit when taking care of a loved one. In fact, the more you take care of yourself, the better care you will provide to your loved one.
***This blog post from March 28, 2014 has been edited with new statistics added.
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