Caregiving can be rewarding, but it is also demanding. In a study by the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP, researchers found that more than half the people who provide extensive care for their parents experience stress and strain.
One in five caregivers says the greatest challenge is how their responsibility for the loved one diminishes their personal time and impacts their lifestyle. By helping a caregiver take care of themselves, you’re helping both caregivers and the people they care for.
Help a Caregiver
Stress can negatively affect overall health, well-being and the ability to provide care. Help a caregiver by sharing some of the immediate benefits of adopting an active, healthy lifestyle, such as:
Stress the importance of taking care of your friend’s needs. You can offer the best support when his/her physical, mental and emotional self is in prime shape.
- Increased energy
- Lower blood pressure
- Better sleep
- Reduced tension and stress
- Reduced risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes and some cancers
- Elevated mood (a clinically proven benefit of exercise)
When you help caregivers find respite, they can have time to use some of the tips below to nurture themselves. Share this list with the caregiver you’re supporting:
- Be social. This may take advance planning, but it’s worth it. Isolation increases stress, while having good times with friends and family helps to balance your emotions.
- Ask friends and relatives for help. Make a list of tasks you need to get accomplished and ask friends and relatives to help complete and cross off the tasks. Loved ones who live far away can still provide plenty of support.
- Reach out to community services. This is where friendly volunteers jump in! Home-health aides, shopping helpers, homemakers and repair people all can shoulder some of the many aspects of caregiving. Consider tapping into volunteer networks or staff from faith-based or civic groups to visit, cook or help you with driving.
- Take a break. You deserve it. Think about respite care by friends, relatives or volunteers. Try for a weekend or a longer vacation by using home-health agencies, nursing homes, assisted living residences and care homes, which sometimes accept short-term residents when space permits. Adult day-care centers, which usually operate five days a week, provide care in a group setting to older people who need supervision.
- Let it out. Talk with friends, family and perhaps leaders at your place of worship about the challenges and rewards of caregiving. Open up to coworkers in similar situations. Or join a support group for caregivers.
- Redirect your mind. Do something you enjoy, whether it’s reading, walking or listening to music. Some people meditate or use relaxation techniques such as deep breathing or visualizing a positive place. Many find prayer helpful.
- Organize. A good plan will give you more personal time. Set priorities and realistic goals. List your caregiving priorities and get the important ones done first. Remember to pace yourself.
- Ditch negative feelings. Keep your focus on the positive. Hold a family meeting to resolve conflicts with siblings and other relatives. Feel positive about your accomplishments as a caregiver instead of dwelling on perceived shortcomings.
Get Help Caring for Your Loved One and Yourself - www.aarp.org/caregivers
Fitness Resources - www.aarp.org/health/fitness
Caregiver Stress Quiz - assets.aarp.org/external_sites/caregiving/homeCare/managing_the_stress_quiz.html
“Prepare to Care” - www.aarp.org/relationships/caregiving/info-04-2010/prepare-to-care.html
Alzheimer’s Association - www.alz.org or 1-800-272-3900
Family Caregiver Alliance - www.caregiver.org or 1-800-445-8106
National Alliance for Hispanic Health - www.hispanichealth.org
Su Familia: The Hispanic Family Health Helpline, toll-free at 1-866-783-2645
National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers - www.caremanager.org or 1-520-881-8008
National Women’s Health Information Center - www.womenshealth.gov or 1-800-994-9662
NIHSeniorHealth - www.nihseniorhealth.gov or 1-800-222-2225