According to Mayo Clinic staff, there are more than 65 million Americans providing care for a loved one. While caregiving can be extremely rewarding, it can also be physically and emotionally taxing.
The Mayo Clinic identifies the following as signs of caregiver stress:
- Feeling tired most of the time
- Feeling overwhelmed and irritable
- Sleeping too much or too little
- Gaining or losing a lot of weight
- Losing interest in activities you used to enjoy
There are ways to deal with this stress. The Mayo Clinic recommends taking the following steps:
- Accept help. Be prepared with a list of ways that others can help you and let the helper choose what he or she would like to do. For instance, one person might be happy to take the person you care for on a walk a couple of times a week. Someone else might offer to pick up groceries for you.
- Don’t give in to guilt. Feeling guilty is normal, but understand that no one is a “perfect” caregiver. You’re doing the best you can at any given time. Your house does not have to be perfect, and no one will care if you eat leftovers three days in a row. And you don’t have to feel guilty about asking for help.
- Get informed. Organizations such as the Red Cross and the Alzheimer’s Association offer classes on caregiving, and local hospitals may have classes specifically about the disease your loved one is facing.
- Join a support group. A support group can be a great source for encouragement and advice from others in similar situations. It can also be a good place to make new friends.
- Stay connected. Make an effort to stay in touch with family and friends. Set aside time each week for socializing, even if it’s just a walk with a friend. Whenever possible, make plans that get you out of the house.
- Commit to staying healthy. Find time to be physically active on most days of the week, and don’t neglect your need for a good night’s sleep. It’s also crucial to eat a healthy diet.
- See your doctor. Get recommended immunizations and screenings. Make sure to tell your doctor that you’re a caregiver. Don’t hesitate to mention any concerns or symptoms you have.
Also recommended is taking a break from your caregiving duties. There are many options, including adult care centers, day hospitals, in- home care, and short term nursing homes.
Read more about what the Mayo Clinic has to say about caregiver stress and prevention here: Caregiver Stress: Tips for Taking Care of Yourself