National Family Caregivers Month, celebrated each November, is a time to recognize, honor, and support the millions of people who provide care for family members across the country. According to a report from the AARP and the National Alliance on Caregiving, nearly one in five people provides unpaid care to an adult, and 46% of family caregivers take care of someone age 75 or older.
Caregiving can take many shapes and forms. It can range from occasional support such as driving a parent to doctor’s appointments or the grocery store to assistance with daily tasks like medication management, grooming, dressing, and eating. Over time, a caregiver’s role may progress to providing around-the-clock care for a loved one with increasing health needs.
As they take on more and more responsibilities, it’s common for family caregivers to forget they need to care for themselves, too. If you know a caregiver, or if you are one yourself, read on for some ways to address the challenges of caregiving and show support during National Family Caregivers Month and all year long.
Learn the signs of caregiver stress and burnout
While caregiving is undoubtedly selfless, and rewarding, it’s important for family caregivers to stay balanced so they don’t neglect their own health and well-being. If left unchecked, the stress of caregiving will eventually lead to burnout, a state of emotional, mental, and physical exhaustion.
Learning the symptoms of caregiver stress can help you recognize them in yourself or a loved one before burnout sets in. Watch for these signs:
- Feeling tired often
- Getting too much sleep or not enough sleep
- Significant weight loss or weight gain
- Becoming easily irritated or angry
- Feeling sad and/or anxious
- Loss of interest in activities and hobbies
- Frequent headaches, bodily pain, or other physical ailments
- Abusing alcohol or drugs, including prescription medications
If you notice any of these signs, don’t wait to seek help. Remember, you won’t be able to properly care for someone else if you don’t care for yourself first.
Encourage regular breaks
Everyone needs breaks to rest, recharge, and relieve stress. But for family caregivers, taking time for themselves is often easier said than done. Many caregivers feel guilty or selfish about asking for help or stepping away from their responsibilities, even for a short period of time. If this sounds like you, acknowledge your feelings — but don’t let them stop you from getting the help and support you need.
Arranging a short-term respite care stay for a senior loved one is one way to provide relief for caregivers, enabling them to take much-needed breaks for multiple days at a time. As a respite care guest in an assisted living community, seniors benefit from a refreshing change of scenery while enjoying the same care, activities, amenities, and supportive services as residents. Meanwhile, caregivers benefit from extra time and flexibility to look after their own needs.
At-home care is another option to give caregivers temporary relief, providing skilled nursing care, assistance with activities of daily living, and companionship to seniors who wish to remain in the comfort and familiarity of their home.
All too often, caregivers find themselves withdrawing from their previous routines, hobbies, and social activities as they focus on their family member’s needs. Over time, loneliness and isolation can lead to serious physical and mental health concerns. Research has found that a lack of social connection can be as harmful to one’s health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
If you’re a caregiver, remember that you’re never alone. There are others who understand the challenges you’re facing, and they can offer empathy and advice based on their own experiences. Reach out to a support network, whether it’s by going to an in-person caregiver support group meeting or chatting with other caregivers online. Use the breaks you do have to participate in the hobbies and activities that make you feel happy and fulfilled.
If you have a friend or family member who is a caregiver, be proactive about reaching out to them on a regular basis. Staying in touch will help caregivers feel connected to their sense of self and prevent loneliness and isolation.
Planning for Tomorrow, Today
It’s not too early to begin researching and preparing for a senior loved one’s long-term care needs, whether the best option is to move to an assisted living community or arrange for at-home health care. Planning ahead now will help to reduce stress and worry in the future, enabling your loved one to express their wishes and stay involved in the decision-making process as much as possible.
If you’re ready to begin researching the different types of senior care, take this quick 4-5 minute survey to evaluate what options might be a good fit and start important conversations about the future.
Bethany Village is here to help you navigate the senior care journey and make the best decision for your family. Contact us today to find out more about respite care, at-home health care, or the senior living options available within the Bethany Village community.