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Caring for the caregiver

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If you provide caregiving for a loved one, you probably have stress.  It’s nothing to be ashamed of so those of you thinking right now that it doesn’t stress you out to care for Mom or Grandpa or your spouse don’t need to get your backs up.  Ask any parent with a newborn kid.  Do they love the kid?  Absolutely.  Are they getting enough sleep?  Probably not.  Why it is that we can joke about guys being such babies when they get a cold in the middle of their lives but later on when the same guy suffers a stroke or gets Parkinson’s disease we have to pretend they’re angels to care for is beyond me.  So if caring for someone with a cold can be stressful, it should come as no surprise that caregivers who spend at least 20 hours a week taking care of a relative run the risk of developing mental health problems because of the stress of caring according to this article.

So think about this, now that you are a caregiver, you’re in charge of the health of two people’s lives-your charge’s and yours.  If you’ve ever been on an airplane, you know that the first thing that happens when the pilot starts the plane down the runway is that some attendant walks down the aisle telling you where the emergency exits are and what to do in case of emergency.  And always, always, always they show you an oxygen mask and tell you to secure the mask on yourself first and then help with any children or others that need assistance.

So consider caring for your health to be the equivalent of securing your oxygen mask.  That means eating right, getting enough sleep, exercising, spending time with other people (a caregiver’s equivalent to date night or girl’s night out) and writing poetry (okay it doesn’t have to be poetry but you should have a hobby).  Because if you don’t take care of your health, who will take care of your charge?

A new study found that family caregivers of patients with dementia reduced their stress levels sharply when the patient received Adult Day Services (ADS).  The study from Penn State University found that on the days that the patient received care in ADS, the care-givers stressors were lower for care-related stressors and the caregivers experience less anger and lower levels of depressive symptoms.

There are a lot of companies that provide care for a few hours a day so that you can take a break and go for a walk or read a book or otherwise get a breather.  There are government programs that will help you afford the care if that is a consideration.  If you think that that’s an option you’d be interested in, consider contacting an elder law attorney to find out what you may qualify for.  I know a good one you can contact at 1-(877) 87-Aging.

And finally, recognize that you’re not alone.  Possibly as many as 60 million families are caring for an elderly or disabled family member at home.  That’s a lot of people to help provide support when it comes to answering questions, providing a pat on the shoulder (even if it’s over the internet) and just giving you a sounding board.  There are a lot of resources but you have to be willing to reach out and pick the fruit.

Other articles you may be interested in:

Caregiver stress can add up to PTSD


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