It’s estimated that about one-third of all adults in the U.S. – more than 65 million people in total – are caregivers to family or friends. That’s a significant number.
This includes the son who regularly does household chores for his frail, elderly mother, the aging wife whose husband has Alzheimer’s disease, and even the mother who’s taken leave from her career to care for her child with special needs.
Caregiving can even be a team effort – a group of family and friends striving to care for a terminally ill parent whose wish is to spend their final days at home in relative normalcy.
Whatever form it takes, caregiving is a give-and-take transaction. Regardless of the level of love and affection, the caregiver feels for the recipient of their efforts, care still often requires an investment of time, labor, struggle, stress, emotions, and loads of mental capital.
Over time, such a commitment can take a significant toll on any caregiver, especially one emotionally invested in the “patient.”
That’s why experts agree – including those who regularly care for people through services at Hospice of Redmond – that caregivers must first take care of themselves before they can fully and most successfully attend to the needs of others.
In other words, unless even the most resilient caregiver takes steps to preserve their own mental and physical health and well-being, they’re not likely to become the support system their friend or loved one needs.
Caregiver Wellness Tips
It’s common for caregivers to be so focused on their loved ones that they don’t fully realize the mental, physical and emotional toll their efforts are placing on themselves. Over time, for instance, caregivers may begin to show common signs of stress such as:
- Overwhelming anxiety and irritability
- Often feeling tired and lacking sleep
- Weight gain or loss
- A constant feeling of sadness
- Headaches, pain, and physical issues
- The abuse of alcohol or drugs
Any combination of the issues above can no doubt become harmful to one’s health and wellness. And, you certainly can’t be of service to your loved one – nor can you commit the right amount of time and effort for other aspects of your life, such as work, relationships, parenthood, etc. – if you start to struggle with health issues.
To help, the care team at Hospice of Redmond put together the following tips and strategies to help deal with caregiver stress:
Caregiving is a hard job, and before you can be successful, you need to give yourself permission and grace to struggle, make mistakes, be imperfect and, most importantly, focus on yourself once in a while.
Ask for Help
Also, permit yourself to get help when you need it. There’s never a good reason to take on all the work and emotional effort yourself. Turn to friends or family, or turn to the professionals and volunteers at Hospice of Redmond for assistance. Along with providing end-of-life hospice care, the team at Hospice of Redmond offers other programs (Transitions and Palliative Care, for instance) to provide support and relief that can ultimately benefit your loved one.
Eat and Sleep Well
These are two of your most basic needs, yet it’s way too easy to cut corners when it comes to eating right and getting the sleep you need. Yes, you will indeed make sacrifices here and in other areas at times (don’t forget self-compassion); just don’t make this a regular occurrence.
Stay Socially Connected
Caregiving can consume a lot of time, but it’s essential to connect with others – even if it’s just to vent – to avoid feeling isolated. This can involve meeting with friends, calling a family member, or even joining a caregiver’s support group.
Don’t forget to make time to move around and exercise every day. Even if that means just going for a walk around the neighborhood. Not only is regular exercise a proven and natural method for lowering stress, anxiety and helping you focus, but it also gives you a chance to clear your mind.
If you are currently serving as a caregiver to a friend or loved one due to a chronic, serious or terminal illness, please don’t hesitate to reach out to the Hospice of Redmond team for help. Chances are we have a program (or can put you in touch with resources) to make your and your loved one’s life easier.
Simply call us at 541-548-7483 or send us a message through our website. We look forward to being of service!