As the population ages, more caregiving is being provided by people who aren’t health-care professionals.
Caregiver stress — the emotional and physical stress of caregiving — is common. As a caregiver, it is natural to at times feel angry, frustrated, alone, sad or even resentful. You may also begin to experience physical discomfort such as fatigue or abdominal pain.
Caring for a loved one strains even the most resilient people, and it overwhelmingly affects women. So when your world feels like chaos, it’s a sign to pause and take stock of the ways that you can take care of yourself. Here are some ways to put the focus on your needs:
Caregiver stress tip #1 : Accept help
As a relative, you might feel that providing care is your duty. But the role of a daughter is different than that of a caregiver, so asking for and accepting help as you take on this extra role is important. Start by making a list of ways that others can help you, and ask family and friends if they are able to sign up for a task to give you some relief. For instance, someone may be able to help by taking your mother for a walk, doing a load of laundry, or coordinating medical appointments. Someone else might offer to pick up groceries or cook for you. Find strength in this story of two women in their 20s who are caring for their mother who has Alzheimer’s disease.
Caregiver stress tip #2: Seek social support
Make an effort to stay connected with family and friends who can offer nonjudgmental emotional support. Just setting aside a few minutes for a walk in the park or a chat on the phone with a friend can make a world of difference.
Caregiver stress tip #3: Focus on what you are able to provide
It’s normal to feel guilty sometimes, but understand that no one is a “perfect” caregiver. Believe that you are doing the best you can and be proud of your accomplishments, flexibility and determination as you take on this challenging role.
Caregiver stress tip #4: Set personal health goals
As a caregiver, you may not get enough sleep or physical activity, or eat a balanced diet — which increases your risk of medical problems, such as heart disease and diabetes. Be compassionate with yourself at this time and know that some things will slip, but try your best to fuel your body with healthy foods (just don’t forget about these ones, they’re actually dangerous to overeat) and plenty of water, establish a good sleep routine and be physically active on most days of the week. It will make a big difference in how you feel and handle stress.
Being a caregiver certainly isn’t easy. The most important thing I tell women in this position is to create time to look after themselves, because that’s just as valuable and important as creating time to look after other people. Plus, here are more tips for taking care of your aging parents.