Caregiving is an extremely demanding job across the board—emotionally, financially and physically. That means finding adequate caregiver support is crucial to avoid burnout and maintain a sense of self and well-being.
While the person receiving care has clear needs, the needs of the caregiver may not be as clear-cut. Here, we’ll delve into common signs of strain for caregivers and how to take proactive steps to avoid them by seeking out support.
Strain on caregivers
Caregiving is not for the faint of heart. It demands a lot without necessarily giving a lot in return. Not only is it a 24-hour job, but it requires wearing all sorts of different hats and providing all sorts of services.
Physically, care for an elderly person may involve things like assisting the individual in and out of cars, up flights of stairs, or to appointments. It may involve running errands and going to offices, along with a lot of paperwork and documents. It may involve dealing with a variety of people from federal programs, law offices or financial institutions.
Add the emotional strain that can come with caregiving, and it’s not hard to see why stress among caregivers is so common.
Signs of caregiver strain
While the signs of caregiver strain will vary from person to person, they can include:
- Changes in appetite
- Chronic exhaustion
- Insomnia or sleep problems
- Loss of interest in hobbies or previously enjoyable activities
- Loss of interest in sex
- Social isolation or withdrawal
If you or a caregiver you know is experiencing symptoms like this, it may be worth taking the time to seek out caregiver support.
How to protect your well-being
Here are some easily actionable steps caretakers can take to maintain a sense of well-being:
Stay healthy: Many caregivers neglect their own health while attending to the needs of someone else. However, this can only lead to caregiver strain and potential health problems. Proper sleep, nutrition, and adequate exercise are vital to help caregivers maintain the energy and mental health required to care for someone else.
Be mindful: The emotional strain of caregiving can take a toll on a caregiver’s mental health. Mindfulness can be an extremely useful tool in maintaining equilibrium. Caretakers should check in with themselves frequently to assess how they’re doing mentally and physically. Simply noticing that something isn’t feeling right can be the first step to helping caregivers seek out proper assistance.
Seek help: Caregivers shouldn’t try to do everything alone. Find reprieve care, hire a care manager or seek out caregiver assistance to ease the burden of caregiving.
Stay organized: All the paperwork and documents related to caregiving can be maddening. Caregivers can avoid a lot of headaches by simply keeping everything in order and having a filing system.
How to protect your financial health
Make sure you don’t neglect your financial health during your caregiving journey. Start by creating a care agreement, which is simply a personal care agreement that details the specifics of a caregiving plan, including compensation, insurance considerations and more. It’s not selfish for a caregiver to consider their own needs; it’s vital to their financial well-being.
Also, take the time to seek out the variety of programs and resources available for caregivers, both on a federal and private level. This post details several important ones.
How to protect yourself from legal issues
Potential legal issues can definitely add to caregiver stress. Here’s how to stay safe:
- Stay updated on caregiving laws: Caregivers should familiarize themselves with local and national laws and important documents related to caregiving to make sure they’re staying on the level. Keep in mind, laws may vary from region to region.
- Have a team: While a caregiver will need to play many roles, they can’t do it all. Certain tasks related to legal documents or finances may require some assistance. Hiring legal or financial professionals can help ensure caregivers are adhering to legal or tax requirements.
How to find help and resources
While plenty of resources are available for caregivers, finding the right ones can be tricky. Here are some shortcuts:
- Care manager: A care manager is an individual with expertise in the local care community. They’re familiar with resources in the area and can act as a matchmaker, helping caregivers find the right ones for their charge. They can also put supports in place and help design a care program that works in the best interest of both care receiver and caregiver.
- On the web: Websites offer a variety of important information for caregivers, including resources, tools and support groups. See our selection of free online tools for senior caregiving, including this guide to best caregiving resources.
Care for the caregiver
When it comes to caregiving, most of the emphasis is understandably put on the person receiving care. However, that doesn’t mean the caregiver doesn’t require support as well. The many demands put on caregivers on a daily basis mean the potential for strain and burnout is very real. A little caregiver support can go a long way in helping maintain a healthy, long-term caregiving arrangement.