By Denise Pott, LCSW – Assistance Home Care
Anyone who has been a caregiver can tell you that it’s not an easy job. Caregiving can be both physically demanding and emotionally draining; caregivers can easily become overwhelmed. When a caregiver is stressed they may become less effective, creating a situation that is not ideal for them or for their loved one. For this reason, one of the cardinal rules for caregivers is to take care of themselves first. Unfortunately, this rule is often overlooked or ignored.
The effects of caregiving on health and well-being have been studied for several decades. We have learned that a caregiving spouse between the ages of 66 and 96 who is experiencing mental or emotional strain has a risk of dying that is 63 percent higher than that of people the same age who are not caregivers. The physical demands of caregiving, long term stress, and the changes that come with aging put caregivers at risk for significant health problems and an earlier death.
Older caregivers are not the only ones who are at risk. Baby boomers who are caregivers for their parents while simultaneously juggling work and raising adolescent children are at risk for depression, chronic illness, and a decline in their overall quality of life.
But despite these risks, family caregivers of any age are less likely than non-caregivers to practice preventive healthcare and self-care behavior.
Problems that are frequently reported include:
– Sleep deprivation
– Poor eating habits
– Failure to exercise
– Failure to stay in bed when ill
– Postponement of or failure to make medical appointments for themselves
Family caregivers are also at increased risk for depression and excessive use of alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs. Caregiving can be an emotional roller coaster. Caring for a family member demonstrates love and commitment and can be very rewarding but exhaustion, worry, and continuous care demands are enormously stressful. While a caregiver can’t stop the impact of aging, illness or injury on someone they care for, but there is a great deal they can do to take responsibility for their personal well-being and to get their own needs met. Here are some things to consider if you are a caregiver…
Remember, it is not selfish to focus on your own needs and desires when you are a caregiver—its an important part of the job. You are responsible for your own self-care. Here are some of the measures that a caregiver can take to begin caring for themselves.
– Learn and use stress-reduction techniques, such as meditation, prayer, yoga, and/or Tai Chi.
– Attend to your own healthcare needs.
– Get proper rest and nutrition.
– Exercise regularly, if only for 10 minutes at a time.
– Participate in pleasant, nurturing activities, such as reading a good book or taking a warm bath.
– Seek supportive counseling when you need it, or talk to a trusted counselor, friend, or pastor.
– Identify and acknowledge your feelings, you have a right to ALL of them.
– Change the negative ways you view situations.
– Seek and accept the support of others.
– Take time off without feeling guilty.
At Assistance Home Care, we know how difficult life can be for a caregiver, and we focus on supporting the caregiver in their efforts. Taking a day, or even a few hours to get away and engage in a hobby or meaningful activity can make a world of difference in a caregiver’s stress level and outlook.
To learn more, please visit our website at
Or call at one of our area offices:
St. Louis • 314-631-1989
St. Charles • 636-724-4357
West County • 636-200-2909