Finding time and energy to care for yourself can be challenging for anyone at any time. But add a full- or part-time role as a caregiver to your list of responsibilities, and that challenge becomes even greater.
Your loved one may need significant attention, day in and day out. Your routine changes, as you juggle established priorities and new caregiving-related ones. And you want to be at your best for all of those responsibilities.
So how can you take good care of your loved one and yourself too, when the demands seem incessant? If you’re a caregiver asking yourself this, you’re not alone.
Why Do We Need to Care for the Caregiver?
Today, more than 53 million people in the United States work as unpaid family caregivers. That’s more than one in five Americans who have provided care to an adult or child with special needs at some time in the past 12 months. And that number is on the rise.
“While many caregivers feel their role has given them a sense of purpose or meaning (51 percent), these positive emotions often coexist with feelings of stress or strain,” according to the 2020 report, Caregiving in the U.S. One in four caregivers say they find it difficult to take care of their own health. And a similar number say that caregiving has made their own health worse.
“This decline in caregiver self-reported heath is concerning, as the stress associated with caregiving may exacerbate declines in health that occur with age,” the report continues. “This means that supports for caregivers and their recipients will be even more critical if this trend in declining caregiver health continues to hold.”
Holistic Support for Caregivers
So what do caregivers need?
Individual situations vary. But topping the list of needs are tools for managing emotional and physical stress. These can include:
- Finding and accepting help in order to get a break occasionally from caregiving responsibilities.
- Seeking resources, or information on general caregiving.
- Attending therapy and/or a support group to develop more strategies and boundaries.
- Using expressive writing, in the form of a caregiver journal, to help process situations and emotions.
- Focusing on small changes in other pillars of health such as sleep, physical activity, and nutrition.
- Paying attention to your physical environment and connection to community.
- Learning techniques such as focused breathing, mindfulness, or meditation for use anytime, anywhere.
What’s a small step in just one of these areas that might have a big impact for you and your loved one? And how can you get started today?
If you’re not currently a caregiver but know someone who is, how might you be able to support them? Increasing needs for family caregivers eventually will affect most everyone in some way.
“Unpaid caregiving is increasing in prevalence and the U.S. population continues to age and live longer with more complex and chronic conditions,” according to the 2020 Caregiving in the U.S. executive summary. “Caregivers feel the push and pull of providing care on their time, their financial well-being, their health, their family, their work, and their own personal well-being.”
How can we care for the caregivers?
As a national board-certified health and wellness coach, Amy Hoogervorst offers grace and space for a healthier you. And she’s also been a part-time caregiver.
In mid-2022, Amy plans to form and facilitate a Circle of Compassion and Connection for family caregivers who are taking care of an adult loved one. This small-group opportunity will help caregivers create their own toolkit of wellness practices as they share with and learn from others in similar roles. If you are a family caregiver, please fill out this form to receive more information on these upcoming opportunities.