Even though November has been designated as National Family Caregivers month, taking care of the caregiver is something that needs to be front-of-mind year ‘round. Because caregivers can typically be juggling so many items – work, family obligations and their aging parents – equipping the seniors’ home with a medical alert system can offer the caregiver peace of mind beyond compare.
Caregivers provide help with in-home health care, errands, housekeeping and transporting senior family members to and from doctor visits. Because there are so many demands placed on caregivers, they are prone to suffer from anxiety, illness and depression. Regardless of whether your loved one is ill or simply is an aging arent who wants to age at home, it is a daunting task. Here are some steps to take to help take care of the caregiver:
- Ask for help. Simply because the aging or ill care recipient is your family member doesn’t mean you have to do everything on your own. Look for volunteers to come to the house and help with weekly housekeeping or grocery shopping, take turns with a friend or another family member for taking the family member to doctor’s visits. See if there are outside activities in which your family members can become involved – events at senior centers for example.
- Build a network of support. While your siblings may not offer to help with caring for your aging parents, chances are they will offer help if you ask. If either of your senior parents suffers from any particular illness or disease, look into support groups. Talk to a local area agency on aging for support services that are provided. A support network can include equipping your loved ones home with a medical alert system, one of the best types of support systems as it gives the aging parent a way to have immediate access to medical care in the event of a medical emergency or a trip or fall. Having the medical alert pendants offers the caregiver the peace of mind in knowing that the systems are monitored 24/7.
- Take daily breaks. You need to take some time for yourself, even if it’s simply going to a coffee shop to relax and read a newspaper. Go out for lunch, take a walk in the park…take a break to recharge your batteries.
- Don’t neglect your own health. If you’re not feeling well you can’t be your best for anyone. See
your doctor if you need help with your health. Take a day off if you’re not feeling well. Also talk with your doctor if the stress of caregiving is taking its toll.
- Look for resources. Many insurance providers or local aging agencies offer resources for individuals who are dealing with a senior loved one. Call your aging adults’ insurance provider and check on local resources.
Baby boomers are straddling the line between seeing their own children move out of the home but now being faced with taking care of their aging parents and it can be mentally and physically exhausting. Caregivers need to care for themselves as well as their loved ones.
Informal caregiving is not for the faint of heart. It is a grueling, time consuming job where shifts last 24 hours a day, seven days a week. This demanding work schedule often takes its toll on the caregiver.
Depression is common in informal caregivers as they begin to feel isolated from others and lose their free time, as the stress continues to build. At first caregivers experience burnout which is often the catalyst for depression. Symptoms of burnout include:
- A feeling of apathy toward activities once enjoyed
- Withdrawing from family and friends
- Weakened immune system
- Inability to concentrate
- Increased irritability or anxiety
- Changes in appetite and weight
- Low self-esteem
- Preoccupation with death and dying
Caregivers also experience stages common to every caregiver that usually lead to these feelings of burnout and depression. At first the new role they have assumed is manageable and caregivers are confident with their duties. During this stage friends and family are often willing to help out and offer support.
After a year and half, the role begins to take a toll. Being an informal caregiver becomes more consuming as the outside world and one’s social life slowly seem to fade away. The eagerness of family and friends to help dwindles and feelings of isolation, the onset of burnout and eventually depression often set in.
During the third year of informal caregiving the caregiver typically begins to show signs of deteriorating health as they begin to lose interest in taking care of themselves. Caregivers then begin to lack focus and lose the rationality to ask for help.
Most caregivers are unaware they are experiencing depression so it is imperative for friends and family to intervene. Before caregivers get to this point, there are some things they can do to curb these feelings, which include:
- Realizing limits: Caregivers know the boundaries of what they are capable of accomplishing and what is out of reach. Keep these limits in mind and set manageable tasks by breaking down larger assignments.
- Seeking help: There are numerous caregiver services available to assist caregivers. They can join a local support group to lessen the feelings of isolation and build a support system. It is also important to set aside “me time,” this will keep caregivers refreshed and help them regain sanity. Caregivers should never hesitate to ask for help, their job is too big to be completely filled by one set of shoes.
- Evaluating the situation: Informal caregivers need to take a step back and evaluate if the current situation is beneficial to both them and the care receiver. Formal care may become a better option as time goes on.
Be sure to watch for signs and symptoms of depression and seek treatment as needed.
You’ve decked the halls, hung the stockings and prepared the holiday guest list! So why do you still feel so overwhelmed and stressed? The home run stretch between Thanksgiving and New Years often feels more like a marathon for caregivers. While this time of year is stressful for everyone as their lives revolve around shopping for presents, baking and organizing holiday excursions, it is particularly menacing for those with the added pressure of caring for a loved one.
Being a full time caregiver is more taxing than almost any other full time job. When your days are packed with the necessities of caring for someone else all day, squeezing in the holiday activities becomes a little more hectic.
The holidays also lead caregivers to reexamine their role as a caregiver. Holiday time typically means family time, so other members of the family get to see how the care receiver is being cared for, which may lead to feelings of inadequacy or a need for reevaluation.
Being a caregiver also means routines – the holidays often put a damper in your day-to-day schedule, making routines less routine or in some cases obsolete.
While the stress that the holidays bring is inevitable, feeling as though you cannot survive them is not. With a few simple strategies this holiday season, caregivers can relax a little more and enjoy the eggnog.
- Find a way to unwind/destress: Take time out of everyday to set aside for you. Listen to your favorite holiday carols or meditate – anything that helps you take your mind off of daily stressors.
- Get your holiday calendar in order: Make sure you mark down all upcoming gatherings and get togethers so you aren’t scatterbrained when something arises. Set due dates for all the things you need to accomplish – when do you need to have the holiday cookies baked by? When do the holiday cards and presents need to be in the mail?
- Maintain immediate family holiday traditions: Neglecting your immediate family during the holidays only adds to the stress and guilt you are undergoing. Set aside time to be in the moment with your family – you need this as much as they do.
- Support group, Support group, Support group: While you need to maintain a support group all year round, now is the time to rein in the troops. Don’t be bashful in asking for help and distributing the responsibility – you should not be in this alone.
- Let the holidays unravel as they come: While your holiday calendar will keep you clear-headed on where you are going next, it will not guarantee those get togethers will go according to plan. Nothing is perfect and remaining flexible and open to change is imperative. While the holidays may not go according to how you envisioned them, going with the flow will make things more enjoyable while saving you from disappointment and guilt.