Are you a caregiver? Feeling frustrated, helpless, tired, even angry about your situation? And maybe you also feel guilty for having those feelings? You are not alone. None of these feelings are unusual, given the circumstances.

You have been tasked with providing care for someone who cannot care for themselves. You have had little or no experience and you probably have no training. Compound that with the toll it has taken on your own needs, desires, and goals — you now have a recipe for what is commonly known as caregiver stress. With the cost of health care rising, shorter hospital stays, longer life expectancy, and an aging population, the burden of caregiving is a common theme in our society.

We hope this article will serve as a brief reminder that your health matters — not just to you but to the other people in your life as well.

The majority of family caregivers are providing loving care for someone with dementia. This can be particularly complicated when compounded with physical issues. The intensity of the care is only heightened by the changing personality and declining cognition of your loved one.

The resulting stress can be traced to the large number of caregivers who report varying levels of depression and anxiety. It probably seems like there is little or no time for you to take care of yourself. Lack of sleep, not enough exercise, eating on the go can leave you physically and emotionally exhausted. Sometimes caregivers self-medicate with alcohol or other chemical means. It is even more common that caregivers find themselves plagued with symptoms and illnesses from a compromised immune system.

This is not all doom and gloom! The fact that you are reading this says there is a glimmer of awareness, among all the other things you are doing, that you need to and can decide to take care of YOU! Here are some ideas.

  1. Make a list of who you can ask for help so you can have some respite. Other family members, friends, clergy might not even be aware of how much impact your responsibilities have on you. Take whatever respite hours you can get — even an hour or two, which most people are willing to give, can mean so much to you.
  2. Check online for support groups — meeting with others in a similar situation not only validates your own feelings but will also provide other perspectives. The Alzheimer’s Association has many support groups for this exact purpose.
  3. Google “Friendly Visitors” to find this service in your community. Most organizations will offer at least one visit per week to a senior at home at no cost.
  4. Get in touch with your loved one’s medical service provider to see what support services might be available.
  5. If financial resources are available, hire a professional caregiver, even for a few hours a week, even if your loved one is initially resistant. 
  6. Very important – ask yourself what types of activities feed your soul and pick one to do every single week! It can be anything from a yoga class, a walk in nature, a massage, a hot bath, or a visit with good friends…whatever it is, DO it! You will be a calmer,happier caregiver by keeping a commitment to your self care.

Remember if you have any questions or would like to be in touch with a Senior Care Authority Advisor in your area call (888) 854-3910 for a no-cost phone consultation. We have many resources to share with you. You can also find a local advisor on our website at www.seniorcareauthority.com.

Written by Marcy Baskin: Elder Care Manager, Family Coach, and Managing Director of Senior Care Authority. She is also the author of Assisted Living: Questions I Wish I Had Asked.