Mind & Body
Who is Caring for the Caregiver
7/1/2020 1:00:00 PM

Caregivers may need to take a little of their own advice. As they care for their loved ones, it’s easy to lose a sense of themselves in the process. "They’re busy making sure things are just right for their loved one, they forget to check in with themselves,” said Anne Welch, administrator of WCCH’s Home Health Agency.   

The number of people who care for a chronically ill, disabled or aging family member is astounding: more than 65 million, or almost 30 percent of the U.S. population. They spend an average of 20 hours per week caring for their loved one, which can include: buying groceries, running errands, managing medication, going to the doctor, bathing, feeding and grooming their loved ones, according to the National Alliance for Caregiving in collaboration with the American Association of Retired Persons. 

The same Alliance for Caregiving also reported the value of the services that family caregivers provide for free to older adults is estimated to be $375 billion a year.

Caregiving, no matter how noble the intention, can be stressful. "It often falls on one person to manage the needs of the older adult; this could range from their daily meals to providing emotional support. There are times when it is physically and emotionally draining,” said Welch. "Home health care can ease the burden when it comes to medication management, teachings, and disease management processes. In addition to a tailored plan of care, physical, speech and occupational therapy services are available to assist with returning patients to the activities of daily living. It gives the caregiver a little respite. For those without home health services to rely on, caregivers should be aware of the potential problems that often occur in the process of caregiving.”

Caregiving can often be rewarding for the caregiver, as they selflessly work to make life better for one they love, but it can also be a time of high stress. While many factors contribute to this, the amount of energy the caregiver puts into maintaining his or her own health plays a significant role. 

"Many caregivers end up being stressed out, frustrated and dealing with their own health issues,” Welch said. "Stress is often a result of continuous caregiving when there aren’t boundaries set in place.”

Stress symptoms can be varied, depending on the person. Common signs of chronic stress include:


Body aches

Recurring colds and flu

Trouble sleeping

Fatigue and exhaustion


Frequent headaches

If the stress is not dealt with, it can lead to more serious health problems, such as heart disease or depression. A sense of sadness and burden is also frequently cited among caregivers.

"Caregiving can be consuming. It can take every minute you have, but we all need a respite. Caregivers need to take time off and know their loved one is in good hands, whether it’s another family member, a friend, a home health agency, or someone in their church. You have to take time for yourself so you can enjoy your life and have something left to give back to your loved one,” Welch said.

It’s important to relax, enjoy time with friends, and ask for additional help so that one person isn’t shouldering the burden alone.

Here are tips to help caregivers:

Stay as organized as possible, from medications to doctors’ appointments. Writing everything down on a calendar or a notebook will help you stay on schedule and hopefully avoid a stress-inducing crisis.

Ask for help, more than once. People are often willing to help, but they don’t know what to do and they don’t want to create more work for you. Caregiving can be done in many different ways: cooking several meals, chauffeuring to the hairdresser, managing finances, etc. Let interested parties know how they might help.

Do something you enjoy. Whether it’s a long walk, getting a massage, reading a book or getting coffee with a friend, schedule time for yourself every week, if possible. It will give you something to look forward to.

Attitude is everything. Approaching your caregiving tasks with the right attitude can make a significant difference. If you’re low on energy, you’ll be more easily frustrated, which can lead to stress. 

The main thing is to remember that caregivers also require care. If you are providing consistent care for a loved one, remember to take time for yourself. It’ll help you maintain your mental and physical health as well as providing the best care possible for your loved one.   

Posted by: Kristy Armand | Submit comment | Tell a friend

Categories: Stress

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