Studies show that caregiving can take a toll on ones physical and emotional health. Caregivers are more likely to suffer from depression than their peers. Caring for another person takes a lot of time, effort, and work. Plus, most caregivers juggle caregiving with full-time jobs and parenting. In the process, the caregiver tends to put their own needs aside. It is no secret that caregivers often find it difficult to look after their own health in terms of exercise, nutrition, and doctor’s visits, because they are so focused on others. As a result, caregivers can often end up feeling angry, anxious, isolated, and sad. However, it is important to note that caring for another person can also create positive emotional change. Aside from feeling stress, many caregivers say their role has had many positive effects on their lives. For example, caregivers report that caregiving has given them a sense of purpose. They say that their role makes them feel useful, capable and that they are making a difference in the life of a loved one.
Is care giving putting too much stress on you? Care giving can be difficult. Watch for these symptoms of stress:
Sleeping problems — sleeping too much or too little – often caused by a never ending list of concerns.
Change in eating habits — resulting in weight gain or loss.
Feeling tired or without energy most of the time, which feels like a broken spirit and affects your ability to cope.
Social withdrawal or loss of interest in friends and activities you used to enjoy, like walking, reading, or going out with friends.
Easily irritated, angered, or saddened due to lack of progress or the feeling that others don’t seem to understand.
Frequent headaches, stomach aches, or other physical problems.
What can I do to prevent or relieve stress? Take care of yourself and in the process, you’ll become a better caregiver.
Know what resources are available. For example, find out about caregiving resources through your hospital, cancer organizations, or others.
Ask for and accept help. You can’t do everything! Attempting to handle it all may lead to depression and resentment. Seek support through friends, family or a support group.
Stay in touch with others. Social activities can help you feel connected and may reduce stress.
Find time for exercise most days of the week and try to get enough sleep and rest.
Look to faith-based groups for support and help.
Join a support group for caregivers. Many support groups can be found through your attending hospital or on the Internet. There is a great need to talk to others about your feelings. You may think that no one understands what you are going through. However, holding in your feelings will only make you feel isolated and emotionally neglected.
See your doctor for your own checkup. Talk to them about what is happening in your life. By ignoring your own health issues, you may be putting your own health at risk.
Eat a healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains and low in saturated fat.
Ask your doctor about taking a multivitamin.
Give yourself credit, not guilt. There will be times when your best side doesn’t always show through. Remember that you’re doing the best you can!
Take one day at a time.
Not A Primary Caregiver, But Want To Help? Stay in touch to show you care – a card, a call or, when appropriate, a visit.
Treat all involved with respect and dignity.
When offering to help, be specific – mow the lawn, take the kids to school, grocery shop.
Educate yourself – learn about the disease, its effects and how to respond.
Do the little things – drop off dinner or run an errand.
Be a good listener – support and accept – try not to judge.
Allow the care giver some personal time – fill in when needed and when appropriate.
Keep all family members in mind from toddlers, to teens, to adults, each reacts uniquely.