Caring for the Caregiver

When a loved one becomes ill or frail, a family member usually provides most of the care. In fact, more than 43.5 million Americans provide care for a chronically ill, disabled or aged relative or friend each year.

Being the primary caregiver is one of the most loving acts one person can do for another. It’s also hard work that can be physically and emotionally demanding.

So who cares for the caregiver? Too often, caregivers ignore their own needs while focusing on the needs of another. The caregiver can show signs of physical and emotional problems due to burnout and stress.

7 Tips to Avoid Caregiver Burnout

  1. Let family lend a hand. A family meeting can help sort out everyone’s schedules so you get regular breaks.
  2. Involve friends. You know all those people who keep saying, “Let me know if there’s anything I can do to help”? Well, let them know and accept their offers of help. Create a list of things that need to be done—grocery shopping, laundry, lawn care, housecleaning or spending time with your loved one—and post it on the refrigerator. When they ask what they can do, point to the list.
  3. Take regular breaks. Even if only 15 or 20 minutes a day, make sure you do something for you.
  4. Exercise. Whether it is a 20-minute walk outside or a yoga class, exercise is a great way to decrease stress and increase energy.
  5. Eat healthy. Your health and nutrition are just as important as your loved one’s, so take the time to eat well.
  6. Attend a support group for caregivers. Your local hospice, hospital or senior service might be offering one.
  7. Seek professional help. Many caregivers feel lonely, anxious, guilty, angry, scared, confused or tired. If these feelings are overwhelming, call your doctor, hospice or another community resource for help.

Find out if hospice care could help your loved one.

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