Being a Healthy Caregiver

“According to Mayo Clinic, unpaid caregivers provide 80 percent of long-term care in the United States.”

Caring for a loved one is rewarding, but not easy and comes with many types of stress. It’s normal to feel anxious, exhausted or sad. If you are a working caregiver, life can be more difficult trying to balance a job along with your caregiving responsibilities. Many times even if you are at work and not physically there, your thoughts are still on your loved one’s situation.

The demands of caring for someone can be overwhelming and your own health can suffer when you are more focused on your loved one. Remember, if you don’t take care of yourself, sooner or later you won’t be of much use to anyone else.

With the New Year approaching, this is a great time to set goals and resolutions. If you are a caregiver, set goals for yourself that will help you live a healthier, more balanced lifestyle. One of the first things to do is understand the signs of caregiver stress.

A few signs of caregiver stress are:

  • Feeling overwhelmed or constantly worried
  • Feeling tired most of the time
  • Becoming easily irritated or angry
  • Losing interest in activities you used to enjoy
  • Feeling sad
  • Having frequent headaches, bodily pain or other physical problems

Often times caregivers do not ask for help and try to manage everything alone. However, it is important to let others know when you need help or could use a break. The National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization shares a few helpful tips and strategies to deal with caregiver stress:

  • Work options. If you are a working caregiver, it is important to discuss your needs with your employer. Telecommuting, flextime, job sharing or rearranging your schedule can help to minimize stress. Increasingly, companies are offering resource materials, counseling and training programs to help caregivers.
  • Ask others to help. You can and should ask other family members to share in caregiving. A family conference can help sort out everyone’s tasks and schedules. Friends and neighbors also may be willing to provide transportation, respite care and help with shopping, household chores or repairs.
  • Take a break from caregiving. Even if it is only 15 or 20 minutes a day, make sure you do something just for you.
  • Exercise. Whether it is a 20 minute walk outside or taking a yoga class, exercising is a great way to take a break, decease stress and enhance your energy.
  • Eat healthy. Your health and nutrition is just as important as your loved ones, so take the time to eat well. If you are having difficulty doing that, ask for help and get others to fix meals for you.
  • Join a support group. Surround yourself with others who understand what you may be going through. A support group can also be a good place to create meaningful friendships.
  • Respite care. If your loved one is on the Cedar Valley Hospice program, respite care at the Hospice Home is an option. Respite care is available at the Hospice Home and all contracted hospitals, as a short-term stay of three to five days. This is available to allow caregivers a temporary break and time to relax.

It is important to take advantage of the many resources and tools available to help you provide care for your loved one. Remember, if you don’t take care of yourself, you won’t be able to care for anyone else. For more information on the resources offered to caregivers at Cedar Valley Hospice click here or call 319.272.2002.