Family caregivers serve a vital role every day by keeping aging in place loved ones safe and comfortable. Although being an informal caregiver is a labor of love, managing those duties along with a household and job can be very physically and emotionally demanding. Finding a healthy life balance while serving as a caregiver starts with being able to recognize the signs of caregiver stress. As a caregiver, here’s how to know when’s time for you to take a well-deserved break, along with some healthy ways to stay refreshed.
Signs of Caregiver Stress
Regardless of age, sex or ethnicity, most caregivers eventually reach a point when they feel stressed out. Many caregivers deal with exhaustion, worry, inadequate resources, and strained relationships.
The average caregiver is more likely to have a chronic illness, like high blood pressure or diabetes, than is a non-caregiver. Caring for a loved one with dementia or Alzheimer’s is even more challenging and stressful.
Here are the warning signs of caregiver stress:
- Sleep deprivation
- Anxiety and depression
- Difficulty performing simple tasks
- Weight gain
- Postponing or not showing up for medical appointments
- Substance abuse
- Not exercising
- Poor eating habits
- Lack of interest in activities once enjoyed
- Social isolation
If these symptoms are-allowed-to persist, they will interfere with the quality of care provided. They will also place the health and wellbeing of both the caregiver and care recipient at risk.
Healthy Living Tips for Family Caregivers
Ensuring that you and your aging loved one enjoy a higher quality of life is possible by taking these steps:
Set realistic goals
It’s sad but true that no matter how hard you try, your loved one’s condition is eventually going to get worse. Rather than allowing yourself to get overwhelmed, prioritize your daily tasks and focus on the most important ones- like getting mom to the doctor for her follow-up appointment. You’re only human after all, and Rome wasn’t built in a day!
Make time for yourself
Setting aside quality time for yourself at least once a week will help you stay refreshed. Be sure to get seven to eight hours of sleep every day. Enjoy that new hobby you wanted to get into. Spend a few hours lounging on the couch curled up with a good book. Whatever you do, don’t feel guilty for taking a break from your caregiving duties.
Focus on your own care
If you’re sick in bed (again) because you’re not taking care of yourself, start making some positive lifestyle changes. Eat a healthy, nutrient-rich diet, exercise regularly and avoid bad habits like smoking cigarettes or abusing alcohol. Get a complete physical every year and be sure to show up for your other medical appointments.
Find healthy stress relievers
Release pent-up stress by engaging in healthy activities like walking, Yoga, swimming o