November is National Family Caregivers Month

Rosalyn Carter said, “There are only four kinds of people in the world: those who have been caregivers, those who are currently caregivers, those who will be caregivers, and those who will need a caregiver.”

November is National Family Caregivers Month. Over 65 million people across the U.S. are caregivers to a friend or family member who is chronically ill, disabled or an older adult. The dollar amount for the care they provide is estimated to be around 375 billion a year. It is time to thank our family caregivers for the support they provide to our communities.

Family caregivers experience significant stress due to caregiving’s emotional and physical challenges. Caregivers have higher levels of stress than people who are not caregivers. They often report that it is challenging to take care of themselves. Many caregivers report a lack of sleep, poor eating habits and lack of exercise. They also say that they often provide care when they are sick. They are at a greater risk of depression and a greater risk to abuse alcohol, tobacco and other drugs. These are just a few risk factors faced by caregivers.

Caregivers report facing barriers to self-care. Personal attitudes and beliefs can get in the way of caregivers caring for themselves. Many people believe that they are being selfish and that the person they care for is the one that needs care, not themselves. They may feel like they are not a good caregiver if they ask for help or feel they can only care for Dad properly. However, caregivers who fail to care for themselves set themselves up for becoming ill and unable to care for the person they are trying to help.

It is essential to recognize the early signs warning signs of stress. For instance, you may feel frustrated and angry one minute and helpless the next. You may make mistakes when dosing medications or turn to unhealthy behaviors like drinking too much alcohol or smoking. We are all different, so it is vital to know your stress symptoms and take care of them before they become a health issue.

To manage your stress, consider what kind of stress is affecting you. If your stress is physical, like high blood pressure, digestive problems, headaches or pacing, try physical relaxation activities like walking, swimming, gardening or a massage. Or suppose your stress is mental, like worrying or having difficulty concentrating. Try mental relaxation, like listening to soothing music or reading for pleasure. You may need to use a combination of physical and mental relaxation techniques. Remember, there are some things you can’t change.

Lastly, don’t be afraid to ask for or accept help from others. If someone tells you, “let me know if you need my help,” be prepared to give them something to do. You can say, “yes can you sit with Dad for a few minutes while I take a brisk walk.” And don’t be so hard on yourself; know that you are doing your best under challenging circumstances.

Community resources are available for caregivers.

 

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