There are many reasons why adults become family caregivers. Loved ones who are disabled, ill or elderly might require an extra level of care. Whatever the circumstances, it is important for caregivers to build in time to take care of themselves.
Wanda Jirau-Rosaly, MD, is a geriatrician with Augusta University Internal Medicine. She acknowledges that caregivers are doing amazing, giving and loving work when they take care of a loved one’s needs, whether for a child, parent or spouse. But sometimes, caregivers can get overwhelmed.
“Caregivers can be paying so much attention to the condition of their family member that they start to neglect their own needs,” Jirau-Rosaly said.
Some signs of caregiver stress are feeling anxious, irritable or forgetting things; suffering from body pains or headaches; or inability to sleep well at night. This can be even more serious if a caregiver neglects their own health concerns, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, a suspicious skin spot or a breast mass.
“Sometimes caregivers feel that no one will provide the same kind of care as they can provide,” Jirau-Rosaly said, “and that can lead to tremendous guilt about taking time to refresh and re-energize.” She said that caregiving experts agree that taking time for oneself is not selfish.
“I tell caregivers that they should think of the instructions we get on an airplane,” Jirau-Rosaly said. “You have to put on your mask first, then your child’s. You want to take care of yourself so you can give your best care to the person you are caring for.”
Caregivers: Look out for your own health
- Accept help from friends or others in your circle. Keep a list of small tasks that others can help you with.
- Have social interactions with friends who can give you emotional support.
- Join a support group for caregivers who have a similar set of challenges. Groups are often organized based on the ailment of the person being cared for.
- Eat right, exercise and visit your own health care provider for immunizations, screenings and checkups.
- Investigate community resources for respite care, transportation or meal delivery. Whether weekly or monthly, taking one or two things off your to-do list can make a difference.