AAccording to healthfinder.gov, approximately one in three Americans are caregivers.
Most caregivers also have other jobs. On average, caregivers spend an average of 24 hours a week caring for a loved one.
A caregiver is someone who helps a family member, neighbor or friend who is sick or has a disability. You don’t have to be a formal caregiver; if you are helping a loved one with basic daily tasks you are a caregiver. When you are taking care of a loved one, it’s important to care for yourself as well. The emotional and physical stress of caregiving can cause health problems.
This could apply to you if you regularly help someone with:
- Grocery and household shopping
- Taking and keeping track of medicine
- Transportation, like car rides to appointments
- Getting themselves dressed
- Medical care, such as giving shots or cleaning wounds clean
- Cooking or preparing food
- Managing services, such as talking to doctors or paying bills
Caregiver stress can lead to health problems
Caring for a loved can make it hard to take care of your own health. Caregivers are more at risk for colds and the flu and are more likely to have long-term health problems, like arthritis, diabetes or depression. Caregivers can also experience back pain. Find out more about caregiver stress.
Signs you may have caregiver stress:
- Having trouble eating, or eating too much
- Losing interest in things you used to enjoy
- Feeling angry or sad
- Feeling like it’s more than you can handle
- Feeling like you don’t have time to care for yourself
- Sleeping too much or too little
Take care of yourself
Caregiving can be stressful and can lead to problems like back pain and trouble sleeping. Taking care of yourself will give you the energy and strength to handle the demands of caregiving.
Take care of your body.
- Eat healthy to keep your body strong. Making smart food choices will help protect you from heart disease, bone loss, and high blood pressure.
- Get active to give you more energy. Aim for 2 hours and 30 minutes a week of moderate aerobic activity, like walking fast or dancing.
- Take steps to prevent back pain, like keeping your back straight and bending your knees when you lift something heavy.
- Make sure you are sleeping enough. Most adults need 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night.
Take care of your mental health
- Find ways to manage stress. Start by taking a few slow, deep breaths.
- Do something for yourself. Set aside time each day to do something you enjoy. Try reading, listening to music, or talking to a friend.
- Ask a neighbor to visit with your loved one while you take a walk.
- Get support from others to help you cope with the emotional stress of caregiving.
Ask for help/Resources
You don’t need to do it all yourself. Ask family members, friends, and neighbors to share in caregiving tasks. It’s also a good idea to find out about professional and volunteer services that can help. Use these links to find:
- Resources for caregivers
- Respite services near you that can give you a break from caretaking
Photo by Matthias Zomer from Pexels
This article is intended to convey general educational information and should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional healthcare advice.