Caregiver stress can lead to serious health problems and you should take steps to reduce it as much as you can. Some hospitals offer classes that teach you how to care for someone with the disease that your loved one is facing. To find these classes, ask your doctor, contact an organization that focuses on this disease, check websites regarding relevant disease concerns, or call your local Area Agency on Aging.
- Find assistance from those who offer help. There may be care-giving resources in the community or you may have a neighbor who offers to take your family member for a walk twice a week.
- Identify what you can and cannot change. You may not be able to change someone else's behavior, but you can change the way that you react to it.
- Stay in touch with family and friends and make time on a weekly basis to enjoy some social enrichment for you.
- Join a support group for caregivers in your situation, such as caring for someone with dementia. Enjoy the social time as you learn new strategies from others facing the same issues.
- Take care of yourself by eating nutritious meals, exercising and getting enough sleep.
- See your doctor for your annual checkup. Identify yourself as a caregiver so that she can be more aware of what your health symptoms might indicate about possible depression or fatigue.
If you work outside the home and are feeling overwhelmed, consider taking a break from your job. Employees covered under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act may be able to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave per year to care for relatives. Ask your human resources office about options for unpaid leave.
Caregiver stress is a growing concern as our population requires more medical assistance and medical costs become increasingly expensive. If you are a caregiver, please take time to assess your current state of emotional and physical health. Anxiety, depression, anger and guilt can have serious emotional and physical consequences if left unchecked.