An astounding number of Americans are caregivers for family members and loved ones of all ages. In the United Stated, there are approximately 42.1 million adults who provide what is called “unpaid” care to someone age 50 or older. A new report issued by the AARP Public Policy Institute notes that in Maine, at any given time, there are 191,000 caregivers. Their collective unpaid time devoted to caregiving duties is valued at approximately $2.3 million each year. As anyone who is a caregiver knows, it can be very difficult to juggle daily tasks with these extra responsibilities. We hope the following tips may help.
Manage Caregiver Stress by Caring for Yourself
When you are a caregiver, taking time to care for yourself can be an enormous challenge. Finding moments for quiet, personal time is important for everyone, so we hope that these tips may provide some guidance for you or a loved one.
These tips are gathered from experts and other caregivers through various sources. Hopefully, you will find that they offer a way to find relief from the stresses of caregiving. If you would like more information, please visit the AARP Caregiving Resource Center at www.aarp.org/caregivers
1. Put your health first. You can’t do a good job of caring for someone else if you don’t take care of yourself. Be sure to eat nutritious meals, get enough rest, see your doctor regularly, and exercise.
2. Take a break. Ask friends, relatives or volunteers to relieve you for an hour or two. For a longer break, turn to an adult day center, or agency that provides respite services.
3. Ask for help. Make a “to-do list” and recruit relatives and friends to pitch in.
4. Use community resources. Most communities have services that can help coordinate your loved one’s care and provide help with meals, housekeeping, grooming or transportation. Check your community’s services at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Resources’ Eldercare Locator by calling 1-800-677-1116. You can also start your own support group through the AARP Caregiving Online Community: www.aarp.org/online-community
5. Stay Connected. Getting together in person—or virtually—with friends and relatives can improve your spirits. Whether you reach out by telephone, email or through social networking sites, keeping your friends and community close to you can be very helpful. You may even find others who are going through similar experiences.
6. Find time to relax. Whether it’s reading, yoga, prayer, or cooking—do something you enjoy to recharge. And laugh. Reading a funny book or watching a comedy can provide a much-needed break.
7. Deal with your feelings. Forgive yourself for feelings of anger. Consider joining a support group or making an appointment with a professional counselor. Caregiving is not easy and we all need support now and then.
8. Get organized. Calendars and a journal can help you prioritize your responsibilities. Some people find that carrying a list of their loved one’s medications can make things easier. For an easy-to-use toolkit, go to www.aarp.org/medicationrecord.
9. Stay positive. Instead of dwelling on what you can’t do, pat yourself on the back for how much you are doing.
10. Just say no. Accept the fact that you simply can’t do everything! Resist the urge to take on more than you can handle.
Taking time to recharge in whichever way suits you best will help during the challenges that caregivers face, often on a daily basis.