It’s said that some jobs are less of a career than a calling.
If true, at the top of that list has to be the caregiver – a person whose wide-ranging responsibilities can be boiled down to dedicating oneself to meet the needs of another person. Being a caregiver means much more than meeting the physical, mental and sometimes medical needs of someone. There is also the incalculable emotional investment and support the caregiver provides.
November is National Family Caregivers Month, a celebration and recognition that was deservingly expanded from National Family Caregivers Week by an annual presidential proclamation since at least 2000. According to a 2015 study compiled by the AARP and the National Alliance for Caregiving, adults of all ages and ethnicities are among the ranks of family caregivers, with almost half of those being adult children caring for their parents and 1 in 5 being the caregiver of a spouse.
Although the mere act of caregiving can be a rewarding experience of selflessness and sacrifice, it can also be an extremely stressful and emotionally depleting experience. The challenges family caregivers face can often be accompanied by feelings of depression or isolation, being overwhelmed and helplessness and many family caregivers feel they have no one to turn to in order to express what they’re experiencing.
All of those issues can lead to more critical health concerns for an individual caring for another person, which begs the question: Who is caring for the caregiver? The Mayo Clinic has compiled the following strategies to help caregivers manage the stress of their service:
- Accept help.Be prepared with a list of ways that others can help you, and let the helper choose what he or she would like to do depending on that individual’s schedule.
- Focus on what you can provide.Understand that no one is a perfect caregiver. Believe that you are doing the best you can and making the best decisions you can at any given time.
- Set realistic goals. Prioritize, make lists and establish a daily routine. Begin to say no to requests that are draining, such as hosting holiday meals.
- Get connected.Find out about caregiving resources in your community. Caregiving services such as transportation, meal delivery, or housekeeping may be available.
- Join a support group. People in support groups understand what you may be going through. A support group can also be a good place to create meaningful friendships.
- Seek social support.Make an effort to stay well-connected with family and friends who can offer nonjudgmental emotional support.
- Set personal health goals.Set goals to establish a good sleep routine, find time to be physically active on most days of the week, eat a healthy diet and drink plenty of water.
If stress continues, seek advice from a doctor and mention the concerns and symptoms you have. Great Lakes Bay Health Centers provides physician services and support across the Great Lakes Bay Region and can connect you with the medical care you need for any situation. Visit greatlakesbayhealthcenters.org for more information.