Part of the in-flight safety procedures includes the instruction to fit your own oxygen mask in case of emergency before helping others with theirs. In the same way, carers should not feel guilty about taking care of their own physical and emotional needs before attending to others. After all, if they become ill, stressed and worn-out, who provides care for the caregiver?
Statistics for Caring for the Caregiver
Many people find themselves unexpectedly in the role of caregiver at some stage in their life. As well as taking care of their dependant, it is vital that caregivers focus on their own needs too, allowing them to continue taking care of others and avoiding caregiver stress.
Related: When Is Stress Harmful?
It may help to know that as a carer you are not alone. According to the National Alliance for Caregiving, each year around 44 million people care for disabled, ill or aging family members. Of these, 38% are adult children caring for their parents.
According to Suzanne Mintz, co-founder of the National Family Caregivers Association, "the stress of the experience can age people prematurely." Studies show that older caregivers have a 63% higher mortality rate than the average person, showing that caregiver stress takes a heavy toll, particularly when there's no-one to provide care for the caregiver.
Here are some useful tips to provide support and care for the caregiver:
- Practice stress-reducing techniques such as meditation, yoga and prayer to reduce caregiver stress
- Allocate some time to go out, attend a class, meet friends socially or enjoy a hobby as a break from being a full-time carer
- Ensure that you eat healthily and regularly and get adequate rest and nutrition that are essential to care for the caregiver’s needs
- Exercise regularly, even if only for 10 minutes at a time. Exercise releases hormones to counter caregiver stress
- Pamper yourself with treats such as reading a good book or taking a relaxing bath
- Seek out and accept help from others whenever it is available
- Talk about your feelings honestly with a trusted friend or supportive counselor
- Take time off without feeling guilty
- Join a support group that provides care for the caregiver
- Set goals, however, small, and get a sense of achievement from reaching them
Additional Sources Providing Care for the Caregiver
Caregivers often feel guilty about putting their own health needs first, but just like the airplane analogy, who provides care for the caregiver if they are incapacitated? Rest assured, as a caregiver you are not alone. There are a number of agencies available to provide support. Contact Eldercare Locator at 1-800-677-1116 or www.eldercare.gov to find out more.
For financial help, you may be eligible for government benefits when caring for someone with Alzheimer's. If you are a veteran or caring for a veteran you may find the Department of Veterans Affairs can provide help.