April is National Stress Awareness Month and the U.S. Department of Health And Human Services’ campaign is reminding people to “Take time to unwind…It’s healthy to relax, renew, and rejuvenate. Stress happens. Sometimes it’s unavoidable, at times it’s unbearable. That’s why taking time for yourself is a necessity.”
If you are someone who is providing long-term care to an older adult you may not realize that caregivers are some of the people most prone to stress and burnout.
Caregivers may be so intent on providing care for loved ones they may not realize they are jeopardizing their own well-being. Too much stress, especially over a long time, can harmful to your health. These are signs to watch for:
- Feeling overwhelmed or constantly worried
- Feeling tired most of the time
- Sleeping too much or too little
- Gaining or losing a lot of weight
- Becoming easily irritated or angry
- Losing interest in activities you used to enjoy
- Feeling sad
- Having frequent headaches, bodily pain or other physical problems
- Abusing alcohol or drugs, including prescription medications
If any of these signs of stress apply to you it is important to work on ways to change and manage it. The reality is that if you wear yourself out you won’t be able to continue to care for you or your loved one.
A Mayo Clinic article on caregiver stress states that:
Caring for a loved one strains even the most resilient people. If you’re a caregiver, take steps to preserve your own health and well-being.
Use these options to manage caregiver stress and prevent burnout:
- Ask for help – if people ask to help say “Yes!” If not, speak up and be prepared with a list of ways others can help
- Give yourself a break – accept that no one is a perfect caregiver. Look at what you are able to provide and do the best job you can
- Practice acceptance – focus on the things you can control and look at the ways this has helped you grow as a person
- Take care of your health – set personal health goals and see your doctor for any of your own health issues
- Join a support group – they understand what you are going through and will provide encouragement, as well as problem-solving strategies for difficult situations
It’s essential to know that as a caregiver you are not alone and there are many entities prepared to help. The ‘Caregiver Link’ at MinnesotaHelp.Info is a great resource with a wealth of caregiver info and access to a variety of support groups. You can search for support groups by type or enter a caregiver topic along with your location to see what assistance is available nearby. In addition, check out these sites for more caregiver information:
At Matrix, ‘We’re there for you!’ is our company tag line and we truly mean it. We’re here to help resolve caregiver stress. With Respite Care you can have a professional caregiver come in for as little as a few hours now and then or for a month-long vacation to provide home health aide or homemaking services. Matrix is a 24/7/365 business with continuous information, nursing and staffing support. We can provide the help you need, when you need it.
It may be hard to think about leaving a loved one in someone else’s care, but taking a break or getting a little extra help can be one of the best things you do for yourself – as well as the person you’re caring for. Remember – by taking care of yourself you’ll be better able to care for someone else.