Family and professional caregivers serve an essential role in the lives of older adults. They provide companionship, assist with daily housework, and enable seniors to live safely and comfortably in their own homes or a care facility for as long as possible.
Furthermore, many caregivers serve in this role while managing other responsibilities, including families and jobs. In fact, more than 77 percent working caregivers have had to make major or minor changes to their work or career to meet responsibilities as a caregiver.
Family caregivers of any age are less likely than non-caregivers to practice preventive healthcare and self-care behavior, according to the Family Caregiver Alliance.
Family caregivers are at increased risk for depression and excessive use of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs. Regardless of age, sex, and race and ethnicity, caregivers report:
• Sleep deprivation
• Poor eating habits
• Failure to exercise
• Failure to stay in bed when ill
• Postponement of or failure to make personal medical appointments
Caregiving can be an emotional roller coaster. On the one hand, caring for a family member demonstrates love and commitment and can be a very rewarding personal experience. On the other hand, exhaustion, worry, inadequate resources and continuous care demands are enormously stressful. Caregivers are also more likely to have a chronic illness than are non-caregivers, namely high cholesterol, high blood pressure and a tendency to be overweight.
“Caregivers make such a positive impact on the lives of older adults and give so much of themselves in the process,” said Lakelyn Hogan, Ph.D., gerontologist and caregiver advocate at Home Instead. “However, caregivers are only human and need to make time for themselves so they can be happy, healthy and in a position to provide the best care to their loved ones.”
Feeling empowered to care for yourself is one of the best things you can do to help someone you’re caring for.
Six tips to help
• Workout -exercise and enjoy something you like to do (walking, dancing, biking, running, swimming etc.) for 20 minutes at least three times a week consider learning stress management exercise such as yoga or Tai chi which teaches inner balance and relaxation.
• Meditate-sit still and breathe deeply with your mind as quiet as possible whenever things feel like they are moving too quickly, or you are feeling overwhelmed by caregiving responsibilities. many times you will feel like you don't have a minute to yourself, but it's important to walk away and take that minute.
• Take a break -make arrangements for any necessary fill in help (friends, family, volunteer or professional caregiver). take single days or even a week’s vacation period and when you're away stay away. Talk about different things, read that book you haven't been able to get to, take naps; whatever relaxes you and makes you happy.
• Eat well -eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, proteins, including nuts and beans, and whole grains. Indulging in caffeine, fast food and sugar as a quick pick me up also produces a quick quote let down.
• Keep your medical appointments-make sure you get your own annual checkup. Being a caregiver provides many excuses for skipping your necessary checkups, but don't do it. A healthy you is worth more to your aging loved one than a sick and weak you.
• Find support-find a local caregiver support group and respite help. A support group will help you understand what you are feeling and experiencing is normal period also, consider in home caregiving. Home care agencies provide personal and home care support to aging adults that can be much needed respite for those family caregivers doing the day-to-day care. Remember it's not selfish to focus on your own needs and desires when you are a caregiver it's a very important job, the family caregiver alliance advises as caregivers are responsible for their own self- care.
Julie Ann Soukoulis is the owner of Home Instead Senior care office in Rohnert Park, mother of two and passionate about healthy living at all ages. Having cared for her own two parents, she understands your struggles and aims, through her website, www.homeinstead.com/sonoma to educate and encourage seniors & caregivers. Have a caregiving or aging concern? She’d love to hear from you at 586-1516 anytime.