Maintaining Your Health As A Caregiver

Julia Little  |  August 12, 2015
Maintaining Your Health As A Caregiver
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As the number of adults aged 65 or older continues to grow in the U.S., so do the number of caregivers. The most recent statistics from the National Alliance for Caregiving explained that in 2012 over 65.7 million adults provided support for someone who is aging, ill or disabled. With numbers this high, it's important that the large population of caregivers is taking steps to ensure that they remain healthy.

It can be challenging for caregivers to find a healthy balance between maintaining their loved one or patient's wellbeing and making sure their own physical and mental health is in check. Helpguide.org noted that without an efficient amount of support, those caring for someone - whether they're supporting a family member of an adult they're paid to look after - become vulnerable to a wide range of physical and mental side effects that can start to take a toll on their general wellbeing. 

These individuals should know how to recognize caregiver stress and what to do if they start to become impacted by it. Here are a few strategies that caregivers can try to assist them as they work to manage their stress and stay healthy:

1. Recognize the symptoms of caregiver stress
Caregivers experiencing serious levels of stress should seek assistance from loved ones or a local support group. It's important that they know the difference between occasional stress that occurs in most people and when it's time to look for help. Helpguide.org suggested that those supporting patients or family members become familiar with the signs of caregiver stress, which include difficulty sleeping and concentrating, feelings of irritability, overacting to minor issues and strong feelings of resentment. 

If caregivers fail to find the support they need, they won't only be unable to care for themselves, but they also won't be physically or mentally well enough to support the person they're looking after. Helpguide.org explained that when multiple symptoms occur at once, they should see a doctor and see if there's someone who could take over some of the caregiver responsibilities for them.

2. Accept that not everything is going to be possible
According to AARP, it's essential that caregivers come to terms with the fact that they won't always be able to take care of everything on their own. The source emphasized the need for people to realize that while they may have goals when it comes to the support they provide, everyone has limitations and they should try not to feel guilty about being unable to get to the tasks that they don't have time for. This can be particularly challenging when the adults caregivers are supporting become resentful. Caregivers should try to stick with the phrase, "I do my best and that's enough," Amy Goyer, who looks after her parents, recommended to AARP. 

3. Focus on a positive mentality
The role of a caregiver involves several responsibilities that can take up the majority of the day. This can lead to feelings of hopelessness and negativity, noted AARP. Studies have shown that approximately 30-40 percent of caregivers who support dementia patients are emotionally stressed or experience depression, according to the Family Caregiver Alliance. 

Goyer suggested that those caring for someone make a point to fully recognize any negative emotions that emerge during the process. Acknowledging these feelings gives people more control over them and allows them the opportunity to choose positive emotions instead. She told AARP that one of the most crucial factors to maintaining good mental health while caring for her mom and dad is choosing mindfulness or negativity.