So much caregiving happens outside the walls of our Village Medical practices. As the U.S. population ages, caring for loved ones through sickness, disability and end of life is becoming more common. As caregivers take on this important, but challenging, responsibility, too many don’t prioritize their own health while delivering care to their family or friends.
Being a caregiver can be overwhelming, exhausting and stressful. No matter how strong you are, the stress caused from caregiving responsibilities can do serious harm to your well-being. Being a caregiver does not have to take a toll on your health and can be an incredibly rewarding experience – one which brings you closer to your loved ones. Here are a few tips to take care of your own health while caring for friends and family.
You are not alone. Talk to others about your experience.
Don’t be afraid to ask for the help you need or to talk about the situation. Talking to family and friends can be a great way to put your experience into context. Even if it’s just for a short walk or a quick cup of coffee, make time each week to visit with someone you trust. Take advantage of resources, such as classes, faith groups or support groups, available for caregivers in your community and online. It’s stress-relieving to talk about the problems you are facing with people who are willing to listen closely, and support groups can provide encouragement through difficult times.
Maintain healthy relationships with those you care for by respecting their independence.
Many people find themselves in a caregiving role for their parents as they age. For most of our lives, our parents took the responsibility of caring for us, and the role reversal can be jarring. Tension can result when we interrupt their sense of independence during sickness or after an accident. Give your loved ones some room – they may not be able to take care of themselves like they used to, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t things still in their control. Maintaining a healthy relationship with those you care for will help keep stress under control. Here are some ways to help promote your loved one’s sense of independence:
Have them help:
- Plan meals
- Fold laundry
- Participate in shopping
- Cook and clean where possible
Allow others to help.
For us to be the best caregivers, it is important we stay in good health. Sometimes that means taking breaks and allowing others to step in and help. Here are some options to consider:
- Take advantage of in-home services in your area. You can find health care aides to come to your home to provide nursing services and even simply spend time with your loved ones. For example, in several markets our Village Medical at Home program brings comprehensive primary care directly to our patients. You might also find caregiving services such as rides, meal delivery, or house cleaning to take additional responsibilities off your plate.
- Find nearby adult care centers and programs. You may have places in your area that provide care for older adults during the day. Some of these centers also care for young children and provide opportunities for kids and older adults to spend time with each other.
- Bring your loved one to a short-term nursing home. If you need a short-term break from caregiving, there are nursing homes, assisted living homes, and memory care homes that can help take care of your loved ones.
Check-in with your primary care doctor.
Talk to your doctor or advanced practice provider about what you are feeling and experiencing as a caregiver. By discussing any worries or symptoms, such as trouble sleeping, fatigue, or irritability, they can help you with treatment options. It’s also important to stay up to date on your vaccines and health screenings to avoid the added stress of dealing with illnesses and worsening conditions of your own.
You might find yourself in the role of caregiver without any warning and feel unprepared. Remember to be patient with yourself because it is not easy. As you take on these new responsibilities and strive to be the best caregiver you can be for your loved ones, know you are not in it alone.