Each year, millions of Americans selflessly donate their time and talents to care for aging loved ones. The average informal caregiver also manages a household and at least a part-time job along with their caregiving responsibilities. As the daily pressure begins to mount, many informal caregivers experience a condition known as caregiver stress. If not properly addressed, pent-up stress can affect the quality of life of both the caregiver and care recipient. If you are currently serving as a family caregiver, here’s why taking care of yourself must also be a priority.
How Caregiving Affects Caregivers
Although caring for an aging loved one is highly rewarding, most family caregivers face these daily challenges:
- Neglecting their health
- Financial difficulties due to out-of-pocket expenditures
- Strained personal relationships
- Stress and fatigue
- Substance abuse
- Scheduling conflicts (work, children’s activities, etc.)
Along with physical and mental exhaustion, a caregiver might also deal with negative emotions like guilt, frustration, anxiety, hopelessness, and depression. As daily stressors start to add up it can push even the most experienced family caregiver to the breaking point.
Warning Signs of Caregiver Stress
In addition to mental health concerns like substance abuse, negative feelings, and social isolation, these are some of the physical warning signs of caregiver stress:
- A weakened immune system
- Rapid weight gain or loss
- Digestive problems
- Frequent headaches
If allowed to persist, caregiver stress can easily transition into caregiver fatigue and even full-blown burnout.
Self-Care Tips for Tired Caregivers
If you’ve been “burning the candle at both ends” for way too long, these are some healthy ways to decompress:
Stay physically active
Regular exercise benefits you in so many ways, starting with the fact it’s a great stress reliever. Working out for at least 20 minutes several times a week will also promote a better night’s sleep, strengthen your immune system, and give you a more positive mental outlook. Some of the best cardio workouts for caregivers include walking, swimming, bicycling, or aerobics. Meditative forms of exercise like Yoga and Tai Chi are great for refreshing both body and mind.
Join a caregiver support group
Joining a caregiver support group is a simple way to connect with like-minded individuals who understand what you’re going through. As a reliable source of caregiving advice, support groups provide a forum where you can openly express your feelings and experiences without being judged.
Speak to a counselor
Another way to share your innermost thoughts without being criticized is by speaking with a licensed therapist. Not only will your counselor be objective and a good listener, but he or she can also provide you with valuable insight that helps restore your peace of mind and sense of self-worth.
Start a caregiving journal
You can also confront negative feelings by recording them in a caregiving journal. Once you start a journal, use it as an opportunity to write down inspirational messages or positive thoughts too- like convincing your stubborn father to stop driving. Whenever you are having a bad day, going back and reading those uplifting messages can do wonders for your self-confidence and mental outlook.
Make time for yourself
When caring for others, “me” time and personal relationships often get neglected. Reward your efforts by blocking off enough time each week for activities you enjoy. Pamper yourself with a spa day, take a weekend getaway with friends, or learn a new hobby. Or just spend a quiet evening curled up on the couch binge-watching your favorite TV shows. After all, you deserve it!
Take a break
When it’s time to take a well-deserved break, or “respite,” you can get outside support through:
Flexible In-Home Respite Care for Seniors in Virginia
Although caring for an aging-in-place loved one is highly rewarding, it can also be time-consuming and stressful. At AmeriCare Plus, we are a family-owned senior care business that’s been assisting clients and their families in Virginia for over 26 years now. Spearheaded by Team Teal, we offer our clients care, compassion, and security in the comfort of their own homes.
As licensed home care providers, our highly trained professionals can deliver in-home care services that include respite care, hourly personal care, live-in companion care, bed and bath assistance, holiday assistance, and even pet assistance. With 10 convenient locations across Virginia, we are one big family taking care of your family! To learn more about AmeriCare Plus now or schedule an initial consultation for a senior in our service area, please visit us today at www.americarepluspc.com.