As the population ages, caregiving roles are being taken over by individuals who are not in the healthcare industry. In fact, around 1 in 3 adults in the United States provides some form of care for another adult. People often rush into this role, not understanding how hard it can be at times to be a primary caregiver – leading to a pressure cooker of stress that seemingly has no reprieve.
Being a caregiver for a loved one can be incredibly taxing, even for the most resilient people. As an informal caregiver, it is vital to ensure that you take the steps necessary to preserve your own well-being and health while focusing on the same aspects for a loved one. Unfortunately, that can be a lot to juggle. This article will look at some tips informal caregivers can use to find the right balance in their own care situations.
Risk Factors and Signs of Caregiver Stress
Providing care for a loved one offers many rewards, and being there when the person you love so much needs you can be very gratifying. Although, a shift in the role you have previously understood will undoubtedly occur and might leave you exhausted, sad, angry, or alone. Some of the commonly acknowledged risk factors that make a person more vulnerable to caregiver stress include:
As a caregiver, it is easy to get so focused on your loved one that you no longer take care of your own health and well-being. You might start feeling overwhelmed constantly, excessively tired, or irritable when this occurs. In addition to these symptoms, you may have trouble gaining or losing weight, lose interest in activities you previously enjoyed, start abusing alcohol/drugs, or have frequent physical problems.
These are all signs that you are experiencing caregiver stress and could directly impact your own health. As a caregiver, you are likely to be less able to eat a balanced diet or sleep an appropriate amount, and you may develop depression or anxiety. Fortunately, you can take steps to ensure that you don't get burnt out over time, and your role as a caregiver remains rewarding as long as it is needed.
Dealing with Caregiver Stress
As previously mentioned, even the most resilient people will eventually struggle with caregiver stress. For this reason, it is imperative to accept the resources and tools available to help provide the appropriate level of care for a loved one without draining yourself. If you cannot care for yourself, you likely won't be a great caregiver either. Some strategies to stay engaged and focused include:
Building a Team
Don't be afraid to reach out to friends or family members if you feel overwhelmed as the only caregiver. For instance, a friend may be able to pick up groceries for you to save some time, and another family member may be able to set up transportation. Try to assign roles to those willing to help.
Setting Realistic Goals
Like any other project, it is essential to break out large tasks into smaller tasks that can be tracked easily. Once this is done, prioritize them to determine what makes sense for a daily routine and what can be added in periodically.
You may feel guilty as a caregiver because you aren't providing the "perfect" amount of assistance. The truth is, no one will be able to meet every single goal or need as a caregiver by themselves. Instead, remain focused on the primary tasks and things that are most important.
It is essential to evaluate how you feel to determine if you are overworking yourself. If you are, look for a support group or other services to accompany the care you can provide without stretching yourself too thin.
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