Caring for yourself can be a difficult task, and adding another person to that list can often cause a lot of stress. Caring.com surveyed more than 1,000 caregivers and reports that caring for someone else is their biggest source of stress. Often times caregivers tend to someone else’s needs before their own and it is important to take care of yourself, too.
Stress can do the body more bad than good and the Arthritis Foundation lists realistic solutions to 9 common caregiving challenges.
Challenge #1: I’m exhausted. According to a survey from AARP, the average caregiver is a woman in her mid-forties caring for a parent, holds a job and cares for her own family, too! Now, add a medical condition such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA) to that and you can imagine how she could feel exhausted all the time.
Solution: Try natural energy boosters. It can be hard to fall asleep at night, especially with the stress of caregiving. To get a good night’s sleep try and skip TV before bed, drop the temperature in the room and make it as dark as possible to help you fall asleep. Eating a healthy diet will also help as well because processed foods can spike your blood sugar and then make you feel tired shortly after. Alongside eating healthier, try adding even just 10 minutes of exercise a day.
Challenge #2: There’s too much to do. Caring.com’s survey showed that 58% of caregivers spend more than 10 hours a week helping a loved one with their daily tasks such as shopping, setting doctor appointments, and driving. Doing this and taking care of your own life can feel very overwhelming.
Solution: Focus on what is important and limit yourself and be honest about it. If you have your own life to look after or even a medical condition, talk to the person you’re caring for and tell them what you can/can’t do. If you suffer from arthritis, focus on doing what you can do before it gets too much on your body. Having them understand your needs might help make caring for them a little easier. If some of the tasks are too difficult, reach out to a fellow family member or health specialist who specializes in caregiving to help you out.
Challenge #3: Seeing my loved one this way makes me sad. According to the CDC, 9% of Americans suffer from depression and that number increases to 20-50% among caregivers.
Solution: Make time for yourself and focus on the positive. Getting wrapped up in caring for loved one is easy, but make sure you set aside some time to recharge your brain and focus on yourself. Try taking just 5 minutes a couple times a day and read something that interests you, or listen to music. Being a caregiver can affect your mental health so make sure you give yourself rests and focus on the positive and know that you’re doing all you can for them.
Challenge #4: It’s hard to always be the bearer of bad news. Many times the caregiver acts as a messenger between family members on what is happening, and delivering bad news can add on to their stress.
Solution: Pick another messenger. If you are caring for a parent, ask another family member to break bad news to the family. If they cannot drive anymore, have a doctor tell them rather than a caregiver.
Challenge #5: My body hurts more now that I am a caregiver. Physical demanding tasks such as helping someone out of a chair or supporting them while they walk can take a toll on your body.
Solution: Get more help from the person you’re caring for. Try and have the one you’re caring for do as much as they can first before helping them out. They might lean on you to do everything even if they are capable of doing it. Having them help out can ease the stress on your body and if you’re having to help them, make sure you engage the right muscles to help eliminate the risk of injury.
Challenge #6: I take on tasks that probably aren’t safe for me. Many hospitals and care facilities have people who handle heavy lifting and difficult physical tasks, but many caregivers still attempt to carry out these tasks on their own.
Solution: Know your limits. Try writing down all the physical tasks you have to do and run them by your physician and have them determine, based on your current health, what you should and shouldn’t do. If anything, hire extra help to do the tasks that you can’t do.
Challenge #7: I spend a lot of money on caring for them. According to caring.com, almost half of caregivers spend about $5,000 of their own money each year in caring for a loved one.
Solution: Keep finances separate and document expenses. Before spending your own cash on items such as prescription pills, see if the person you’re caring for has their own source of income such as Social Security or a savings account. If you must use your own money, document all the expenses and ask other family members to help split the cost.
Challenge #8: I feel distant from the outside world. Taking care of someone can make it difficult for the caregiver to leave the house for things that are not caring-related. Becoming isolated from the world can cause a lot of health problems such as depression and other diseases.
Solution: Make your social life a priority. Try and find at least 15 minutes a day to get outside and enjoy the fresh air and talk to someone. Ask a neighbor or a friend to come over to chat or sit down and read a book. If this is too much, try online-support groups. These are meant to help those in the same situation and can help substitute when you can’t find time to go outside and take a walk with a friend.
Challenge #9: I feel burned out. A Dutch study published in Disability and Rehabilitation show that more than 25% of caregivers feel an immense burden hanging over them due to the stress of caring for a loved one.
Solution: Share the load. Try making a list of your daily caregiving duties and try to delegate as much as possible to others around you. Sometimes asking for help can be hard but it will relieve the stress off of you and make caregiving easier. Taking notes too can help with delegating tasks and showing what someone should expect when doing a certain task.
Always consult your physician about your overall health and what you can do to best suite your needs.
Pagan, Camille Noe. “Solutions for Nine Common Caregiving Challenges.” The Arthritis Foundation. http://www.arthritis.org/living-with-arthritis/life-stages/caregiving/caregiving-arthritis.php