Taking care of an aging parent or loved one is an extremely
meaningful and important role. However, it is widely known that caregiving
duties can take up a significant part of a person’s life. According to the Family
Caregiver Alliance, caring for someone with Alzheimer’s lasts an
average of four to eight years though it is not unusual to last up to 20 years.
Caregivers make incredible time sacrifices, spending countless days per month on
tasks such as shopping, food preparation, housekeeping, transportation and
administering medication; and additional time on feeding, dressing, grooming,
walking, bathing and other vital activities.
With a seemingly endless list of tasks and responsibilities,
caregivers often find themselves dealing with their own health issues such as
stress, frustration and depression. Four of every 10 caregivers consider their
caregiving situation to be highly stressful, and nearly half of higher-hour
caregivers find their role emotionally stressful, per the Family
Caregiver Alliance. They often must communicate on their loved one’s
behalf to doctors, lawyers and agencies asking complicated questions that they
might not always know the answer to. All this coupled with the fact that more
(34 percent) of caregivers are over 65, can leave caregivers feeling
emotionally and physically exhausted.
While caregivers’ lives are radically (and sometimes
unexpectedly) changed by caring for an aging loved one, they are also put in a
uniquely difficult position as sympathy and concern tend to focus solely on the
care recipient. At this time of year, senior heath and healthy aging is on the
minds of many. But as a caregiver, it is important not to forget your own
health. To begin your self-care journey, consider the following:
Stay organized: Make sure that you have access to important
medical and legal documents and keep them organized and up to date to ensure
that medical visits and consultations go as smoothly as possible.
Stay healthy: Caregivers tend to be in worse physical shape
compared to non-caregivers, due to mental health problems coupled with the
physical strains of caregiving taking a toll on their body. It’s crucial to
stay healthy so you can provide the best care to your loved one. Take breaks,
exercise, eat healthy food and drink plenty of water. Keep up on your own
doctor’s visits; let your primary care provider know that you are a caregiver
and don’t hesitate to mention any symptoms or concerns you might have.
Stay positive: Maintain good mental health by using stress
relief techniques such as meditation, a simple way to calm your mind and lessen
the stress of caring for a loved one. There are many online resources or apps
to help you learn how to meditate and that can provide daily meditations.
Coping skills can help you address the stress and concern that comes with the
responsibility of being a primary caregiver.
Find support: Find out if there are caregiver resources in
your community such as support groups where you can share experiences and
discuss solutions with others who understand what you’re going through. Try to
stay connected with family and friends who can offer you emotional support,
such as getting together once a week to take a walk.
Accept help: Always say yes when someone offers help. Be
proactive by creating a list of ways that others can help you, such picking up
groceries, providing transportation or cooking a healthy dinner.
Know that you are valued and appreciated: Being a caregiver
can be very rewarding, but there will be times when you feel underappreciated
or that things aren’t getting better, no matter how hard you try. Pat yourself
on the back for taking on one of the toughest jobs there is. This is a unique
situation and you’re doing the best you can.
Managing the stress in your life, especially as you’re
aging, is just as important as any of your other responsibilities. If you take
care of yourself, you will be able to better care for someone else.
BCBSRI is dedicated to supporting caregivers and those they
care for. Our caregiver website (bcbsri.com/medicare/caregiver)
provides resources for taking care of your loved one and yourself. You’ll also
discover local and national organizations that offer support for caregivers.
Please feel free to talk with us at BCBSRI about the needs of your loved one,
but also about how we can help with your own health needs. BCBSRI Case
Management can be reached at 459-CARE (2273) 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through