Caring for an aging family member, friend, or loved one is a big responsibility. In addition to balancing the normal everyday demands of life, caregivers must also ensure the needs of their loved ones are being met. With the holidays approaching, caregivers can be overwhelmed. Over time these demands can take a serious physical, mental, and emotional toll that hits without warning.
The National Alliance for Caregiving reports that family caregivers spend an average of 20 hours a week caring for loved ones. Thirteen percent of family caregivers provide 40 hours a week or more, a full time job. One third provide care for five years or more.
One in four caregivers report their health is fair to poor.
The stress of family caregiving has even been shown to impact an individual’s immune system for three years after caregiving responsibilities end, increasing the caregiver’s own chances of developing a serious or chronic illness themselves.
Caregiving is a role that cannot be taken lightly. Every caregiver must make time to attend to his or her own personal needs. Neglecting them makes an already difficult situation more difficult, hindering the ability to care for someone else.
It is critically important to recognize the signs and symptoms of caregiver stress. The human body will send out warning signs when caregiver stress is starting to take its toll.
- Outbursts or feelings of anger or irritability
- Frequent mood swings
- Social withdrawal
- Difficulty concentrating or focusing on tasks
- Exhaustion or chronic fatigue
- Weight gain or losses
- Physical warning signs, such as headaches, back pain, or neck pain
- Health problems
Caregivers must focus on their personal health and well-being in order to be effective. A healthy diet, taking time for exercise, and getting plenty of rest are not luxuries. Make time for leisure activities. Maintain your social contacts and seek support from them. Enjoy lunch outings with friends, see a movie, take a walk or a hike. Whatever you enjoy, make time for it. Talk to a healthcare professional if you begin to feel the physical or emotional effects of caregiver stress.
Be realistic about changes and increasing challenges. Older adults, particularly those with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia may need more accommodations and different routines. Set realistic goals and expectations and learn to accept them.
The Alzheimer’s Association has an excellent list of tips for caregivers you or someone you know may find especially helpful. http://www.alz.org/care/alzheimers-dementia-healthy-caregiver.asp
When healthy self-maintenance isn’t enough, it isn't any admission of defeat to ask for help. There are numerous resources in every community. Don’t be shy about asking family and friends to help with a few hours so you have time for personal appointments, shopping, or a walk or swim. Church and community social groups may also be able to help. Explore the options offered through local senior centers such as Senior Community Centers of San Diego at www.servingseniors.org for day-care programs. These also provide the benefit of social interaction for older adults.
When more help becomes necessary, professional home care services can be a lifeline and allow seniors to stay in their own homes safely for a longer time. Be sure to get references, check credentials and certification, and ask questions to ensure your loved ones receive care from experienced, reputable providers.
About InTouch at Home
InTouch at Home is a Senior Resource Group (SRG), LLC company . Serving the needs of seniors and their families for more than 20 years, SRG delivers on the promise of exceptional service and quality care each and every day through its 18 communities including La Vida Real in Rancho San Diego and La Vida Del Mar. Now through InTouch at Home, this same outstanding care and service is available to you in your home, wherever it may be. For more information, call 858-522-9942 or visit InTouch-at-Home.com.