Providing care for a loved one can be a full-time job. In my day-to-day work, I have the opportunity to interact with many caregivers who have devoted their life to providing the care their aging parents or loved ones require. This can be one of the most challenging, and at the same time rewarding, jobs that I can imagine.
The term “caregiver” has been used to describe any number of caregiving relationships — spouses caring for each other, adult children caring for aging parents, paid caregivers who spend time in the home on a full- or part-time basis. In all of these relationships, though, the one unifying theme is the dedication necessary to provide care to a loved one in need.
But too often the focus is placed on the recipient and the person providing the care gets lost in the process. Caregivers often describe feelings of depression, isolation, frustration, anger, and even guilt about the process. Researchers have found that up to 20 percent of family caregivers are diagnosed with depression at some point while providing care, and up to three times that number exhibit at least one or more depressive symptoms during the course of care provision. Studies have also shown that caregivers often let their own needs lapse while focusing their attention on the care recipient. Neglecting regular check-ups with personal physicians, not seeking appropriate treatment for chronic medical issues, or simply not allowing themselves to take a rest from the day-to-day demands associated with providing care are common findings among caregivers.
I emphasize to caregivers how important it is for them to practice good self-care. This helps to decrease their stress level, and ultimately, enables them to provide a higher level of care for their loved one. Here are a couple of other suggestions I encourage each of them to consider.
- Practice good self care – It is impossible to provide good care for someone else if you do not take care of yourself (this means both physical and psychological health). Do not be afraid to take time for yourself and engage in pleasant activities / hobbies. It might take a little bit more time to work these things into your schedule, but the rewards from doing so are well worth it.
- Use your support system – This can mean involving a spouse, other family member, or even local community services / organizations. The important thing is to realize that you are not alone in trying to handle all of the issues involved in being a caregiver.
- Talk to someone – Have at least one person that you are able to share your feelings with. Everyone needs some type of confidant, and if you do not feel comfortable going to someone you know, seek the help / guidance of a mental health professional in the area who is familiar with these issues.
- Find healthy ways to deal with stress – Meditation, exercise, yoga, reading a good book, listening to your favorite music, and meditation are only a few of the activities that can help reduce stress.