Study after study has documented the heavy toll of caregiving. Depending on the amount and level of care a person is providing, the physical and psychological effects can be quite severe.
The steps for reducing that stress are fairly simple.
- Acknowledge that no one can do it all.
- Ask for help – and accept it.
- And, don’t fall into the “my way is the only way” trap.
For many of us, though, following this advice requires a complex struggle to set aside guilt and other emotions.
First, many of us are programmed to feel that we should be able to handle everything that comes our way. Then, there is a sense of duty and a concern that people will judge you if you don’t take on this role. It can be a difficult conversation to sit down with a parent and your siblings and say, “I really want to help you, but we need some additional folks in here to help.”
When we try to do it all, there’s always something that has to give. We may sacrifice the time we would use for ourselves and family. Exercise falls off. Sleep and nutrition suffer.
Stress affects your heart, lowers immunity and can exacerbate chronic conditions such as diabetes and arthritis. Caregiving can cause injuries if the person requires physical assistance.
What can you do to help yourself?
Joining a support group can be a lifeline. You may say you don’t have time, but you do. Make it. A quick, online search will find support groups for just about any condition.
Look at your parent’s finances to see if they support part-time senior home care services. If they meet the criteria for home-bound, they may be eligible for home health care, which is covered by Medicare or, if they are a veteran, the Veterans Administration. Contact their physician for a screening.
And, don’t overlook your friends. People want to help. Let them.
Finally, contact your local Office of Aging. They may have day programs, transportation, and know of private or community support services.