Caregivers who provide senior home care for an aging loved one must care for themselves, too!
Wikipedia defines respite care as, "the provision of short-term, temporary relief to those who are caring for family members who might otherwise require permanent placement in a facility outside the home."
According to womenshealth.gov Caregiver stress fact sheet, the stress of providing care can have serious health consequences on the caregiver, including an increased likelihood of:
- Symptoms of depression or anxiety
- Long-term medical problem, such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, or arthritis
- Having hgher levels of stress hormones
- Experiencing more days sick with an infectious disease
- Having a weaker immune response to flu, or flu vaccine
- Exhibiting slower wound healing
- Having higher levels of obesity
- Showing mental decline, including problems with memory and paying attention
Why do these risks increase for caregivers?
Often the caregiver is a member of the sandwich generation and is providing senior home care for parents while at the same time raising their own children or managing their careers, or both. The result... missed annual health exams, too little sleep, not enough physical exercise, eating less than healthy meals, and so on.
How can I tell if I am stressed?
Of course, it can be difficult for many of us to be objective about ourselves, especially when it comes to "duties" like caring for our families. You need to take a step back and take a hard, objective look at yourself. Some things you might notice if you really are stressed, include:
- More than just occasionally feeling overwhelmed
- Loss of interest in activities you used to enjoy
- Becoming easily irritated or angered
- Frequently feeling sad
- Sleeping a lot more or less than previously
- Gaining or losing too much weight
- Feeling tired much of the time
- Feeling constantly worried
- Frequent headaches or other pain
- Increase use/reliance/abuse of alcohol or drugs, including prescription drugs
What can I do about it?
The single most important thing you can do is recognize the problem and ask for help! Don't simply dismiss the stress as a "natural" part of caregiving. While some stress is good for all of us, excess stress simply isn't!
Help (respite care) can come from a variety of places. Some communities have adult day care centers that can be used on an hourly or daily basis. Often family, neighbors or friends may be willing to help out. Nobody knows you need help, though, if you don't ask. It's good to have a variety of sources of help so none is overburdened.
Even with a strong network, in today's busy society often your schedule for needed respite care may not align with those family, neighbors and friends schedules. That's where Seniors Helping Seniors can help. For example, we recently provided care for two individuals whose primary caregivers needed a long overdue out-of-town vacation. In another situation, the caregiver simply was feeling lonely and wanted to reconnect with an old friend for a Saturday evening date. In these cases we provided a compassionate senior home care worker to monitor the aging parent, provide meals, and simply socialize with them.
Of course, we don't recommend you add stress to your vacation or event by having a new caregiver with your loved one. Start small in advance. We can come in for 2 hours while you simply run some errands. This is a chance for your loved one and our caregiver to bond and be sure there is a good match. Then when you need us, you can go off on your event stress free.
Finally, don't forget other options to allow you to get away for short periods of time, depending on how much care your loved one needs. For example, Personal Emergency Responses Systems can add peace of mind as well.
For more information, check out this Caregiver Stress Fact Sheet. You DO deserve and have the right to take care of yourself, too!