AARP Pennsylvania recently joined organizations such as the Alzheimer’s Association, Home Instead, PCA, and Boomers R Heroes for a special event, “Caregiving for the Caregiver: Mind, Body, and Soul.” The morning session took place at the WHYY Media Commons where CBS 3 and the CW Philly 57’s Emmy Award-winning health reporter Stephanie Stahl, served as the moderator for a panel discussion on the needs of family caregivers.
The featured speakers on the panel were experts in the caregiving industry answering questions from audience members comprised of family caregivers. Guests heard personal stories about the overwhelming emotions related to caregiving issues. Helping to care for a sick or dying loved takes a steep emotional toll. One study found that as many as one in three caregivers rate their stress level as high, and half say they have less time to spend with family and friends. But when you’re caring for others, it’s critical that you first take care of yourself. That’s why AARP is here to help caregivers with the tools, information and support they need to care for their loved ones and themselves.
AARP recognizes the medical needs of family caregivers because recent AARP surveys show that caregiving affects both a caregivers’ mental and physical health in negative ways, and with over one million Pennsylvanians who are currently in that role, AARP Pennsylvania has made this topic of high importance.
“When you are a Caregiver, caring for yourself is essential to avoid burn out and high stress levels. Through these special events and outreach initiatives, AARP is able to help educate and encourage family caregivers dealing with emotional, medical, and financial issues,” says Angela Foreshaw-Rouse Manager of Community Outreach for AARP Pennsylvania. Attendees learned where to find local resources in their community during a featured family caregiving resource fair prior to the morning session.
These ten tips provided by AARP will help keep your stress in check.
1. Put your physical needs first. Eat nutritious meals. Get enough shut-eye. Schedule regular medical checkups. Find time to exercise. If you experience symptoms of depression — extreme sadness, trouble concentrating, apathy, hopelessness, thoughts about death — talk to a medical professional.
2. Connect with friends. Isolation increases stress. Getting together regularly with friends and relatives can keep negative emotions at bay.
3. Ask for help. Make a list of things you have to do and recruit others to pitch in. Even faraway relatives and friends can manage certain tasks.
4. Call on community resources. Consider asking a geriatric care manager to coordinate all aspects of your loved one’s care. Other service providers, including home health aides, homemakers and home repair services, can shoulder some of the many responsibilities of caregiving.
5. Take a break. Think about respite care by friends, relatives or volunteers. Or try for a weekend or longer vacation by turning to a home health agency, nursing home, assisted living residence or board-and-care home.
6. Deal with your feelings. Bottling up your emotions takes a toll on your psyche — and even on your physical well-being. Share feelings of frustration with friends and family. Make an appointment with a professional counselor, or join a caregiver support group.
7. Find time to relax. Doing something you enjoy, such as reading, walking or listening to music, can recharge your batteries. Some caregivers meditate or use relaxation techniques such as deep breathing or visualizing a positive place. If you’re religious, you might find that prayer can be a powerful tool.
8. Get organized. Simple tools like calendars and to-do lists can help you prioritize your responsibilities. Always tackle the most important tasks first, and don’t worry if you can’t manage everything.
9. Just say no. Accept the fact that you simply can’t do everything! Resist the urge to take on more activities, projects or financial obligations than you can handle. If someone asks you to do something that will stretch you too thin, explain honestly why you can’t — and don’t feel guilty.
10. Stay positive. Do your best to avoid negativity. Hold a family meeting or call an elder care mediator to resolve conflicts with siblings and other relatives. Instead of dwelling on what you can’t do, pat yourself on the back for how much you are doing, and focus on the rewards of caring for someone you love.