written by Sue Susskind
Caregiving for a loved one can be both rewarding and stressful at the same time. It is a satisfying feeling to know that your loved one is getting wonderful care because you are providing it, but often times the emotional and physical demands can take their toll on you if you do not take the time to take care of yourself. Caregiving takes a lot of time, effort and work.
In this era of the “sandwich generation”, caregiver stress is becoming more and more prevalent. People are trying to balance the responsibility of caring for their own family, caring for a loved one and working a full time job. Because caregivers deal with stress on an ongoing basis, it is easy to become used to the feeling of being stressed, and avoid the signs of problems to come. This can lead to physical and emotional problems and in the worst instances it can also lead to caregiver “burn out.”
If you are a caregiver, or know someone who is, watch for the following signs of caregiver stress:
-Anger -Withdrawal -Trouble eating or eating too much
-Weight Loss -Sleeping difficulties -Isolation
-Guilt -Lack of Concentration -Low energy level
-Depression -Smoking -Loss of interest in things
-Exhaustion -Drinking -Social Withdrawal
-Anxiety -Denial -Irritability
If you are a caregiver and are experiencing some of these signs on a regular basis, or if you know of someone who is, do not ignore the signals. Talk with a Doctor and find out what resources are available to you. Take advantage of caregiver support groups, adult day care programs, Meals on Wheels, in-home care companies, and other programs that can help to lighten your load.
Many caregivers do not seek out the help they need because they do not recognize that they have a problem or they are embarrassed they cannot handle their responsibilities. Always remember that asking for help does not make you a failure, but rather a productive, healthy caregiver. To care for others you must first care for yourself. Try to do something for yourself everyday, and be realistic about what you can do and how much you can handle. Give yourself credit for all that you have accomplished and don’t feel guilty if you lose patience once in a while or if you can’t do everything on your own. Recognize all of your successes and try to accept that there are things you cannot change or control.
For more help and information, look within your community. Churches or synagogues may provide services or volunteers that can help you. Organizations such as Children of Aging Parents www.caps4caregivers.org/, National Family Caregivers Association www.thefamilycaregiver.org/, and the Eldercare Locator www.eldercare.gov/Eldercare.NET/Public/Home.aspx have resources available as well.
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