Being a caregiver is one of the most rewarding yet challenging responsibilities for millions of Americans. While every situation is different, the act of caregiving presents physical, emotional and financial stressors; many caregivers work full time and raise a family while also dealing with medical tasks, coordinating appointments and making difficult health care and legal decisions for a loved one. According to the AARP, there are more than 61 million family caregivers in the U.S. providing $450 billion in unpaid care. Needless to say, it can get quite overwhelming for people trying to manage their own lives in addition to caring for another.
While the person receiving care is a top priority, it’s extremely important for the caregivers themselves to do things to find balance in order to be their best for someone else. Below are recommendations for caregivers to help reduce the stress that comes along with caregiving.
Take breaks – Caregivers who never take a break from the demands of caring for someone else run the risk of suffering physiologically, emotionally and even financially. Caregivers should schedule time for themselves, and make arrangements another person to step in if need be. Taking time to get out of the house or focus energy elsewhere is important.
Seek resources and support – There are many community programs and support groups that caregivers can take advantage of. For example, the Caregiver Action Network (CAN), consisting of volunteers in over 40 states, supports family caregivers, as do many faith-based organizations. Caregivers can turn to these kinds of groups for assistance, helpful information, and emotional support.
Set up regular check-ins – Caregivers should ask others (friends, family members, or volunteers) to check-in at a designated time each day or week. Then, they can share any updates that should be addressed or how they’re feeling.
Practice self-care – If caregivers aren’t eating well, sleeping well, and attending their own doctor’s appointments, they won’t be able to assist others for long.
Stay organized and positive – Use calendars and other tools to prioritize responsibilities, and focus on being as optimistic as possible, knowing that everything that needs to get done will get done.