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A caregiver is anyone who provides help to another person in need, such as an ill spouse or partner, a disabled child, or an aging relative. (Aging.com)
According to Mental Health America, over 53 million Americans are unpaid caregivers to family members, friends, or neighbors, and nearly a third of all adult caregivers are caring for someone with a mental illness.
Assisting a loved one can be rewarding, but long term caregiving can be both mentally and physically exhausting, as well as put strain on personal finances. Putting all of your effort into another person’s health and wellbeing, while important, sometimes means your own health and wellbeing become neglected. Many caregivers don’t even recognize they have taken on this role. Caregivers come in all shapes and sizes. A caregiver can be a spouse, an adult child,a close friend, or even a neighbor.
Caring for an ill or aging loved one can occur suddenly when a loved one becomes ill or injured, but often it is a gradually acquired role. It can start as simply as “checking-in on mom or dad”, helping out with caring for the house or running the occasional errands. The healthier spouse may catch themself setting aside their own needs and interests to take care of their less capable partner. An aging adult, especially one who wants to remain in their own home, can quickly become dependent on a loved one. Even the most resilient person can suffer strain trying to have their own life, work, or family, and also provide care to a loved one in need. Caregiver burnout is a serious risk to mental and physical health.
5 Tips to avoid burnout:
- Be realistic about what you are capable of: It’s impossible for one person to do everything. Accept help and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Unfortunately, it’s common for the family member who is in closest proximity, or seems most available, to bear the heaviest burden of caregiving. If you have other capable family members or friends, create a schedule and ask them to help out. Clearly explain the needs. Assign specific time frames and tasks to other family members.
- Make your health a priority, even if it seems unimportant: See your doctor regularly. Find time to exercise and enjoy nature. Stay hydrated and make time for nutritious meals.
- You are not alone: Join a support group, find caregiver blogs to follow, get connected to other caregivers and share tips and struggles.
- Look up local respite care options (Eldercare locator , Area Agency on Aging) and check your loved one’s insurance plan to see if they qualify for home health care.
- If caregiving is impacting your workload, ask your company’s HR department if you qualify for FMLA. You may be eligible to take a paid leave of absence from your job to care for your aging or ill loved one.
- If you are an unpaid (or paid) family caregiver, remember that it is okay to feel overwhelmed. Your feelings are valid and it’s important for you to seek out support even if you don’t think you need it. You cannot care well for another person unless you are caring for yourself first.
If you are an unpaid (or paid) family caregiver, remember that it is okay to feel overwhelmed. Your feelings are valid and it’s important for you to seek out support even if you don’t think you need it. You cannot care well for another person unless you are caring for yourself first.
DISCLAIMER: This article contains information that is intended to help the readers be better informed regarding exercise and health care. It is presented as general advice on health care. Always consult your doctor for your individual needs. Before beginning any new exercise program it is recommended that you seek medical advice from your personal physician. This article is not intended to be a substitute for the medical advice of a licensed physician. The reader should consult with their doctor in any matters relating to his/her health.