In America, more than 65 million people are providing care to a loved one, whether a spouse, parent, or other family member. That number is three times what it used to be 15 years ago, according to NPR.
Many of these people are providing care because they would rather not put their loved one in a nursing home or because they can’t afford it.
This decision is a very personal one, and families should do what they think is best for them.
If your family does decide to care for a loved one instead of utilizing the services of a nursing home, it’s important that you understand that—while it is rewarding—caregiving does come with financial and emotional stresses.
The CDC reports that caregivers have difficulty managing stress, as they put the needs of their family before their own and rarely find the time to take care of themselves.
Caregivers can frequently feel tired, worried, frustrated, sad, and even guilty. Because they don’t focus as much of their time or energy on taking care of themselves, they are less likely to get a good night’s sleep, cook healthy meals, and go to the doctor, according to WomensHealth.gov (the Office on Women’s Health in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services). As a result, the stress of caregiving can cause physical health problems.
If you are a caregiver, the estate planning and elder law attorneys at Lovett & House Co., LPA urge you to care for yourself first. After all, if you aren’t healthy, you won’t be able to make sure your loved one is healthy and cared for.
Don’t go it alone, and don’t feel guilty asking for help. You can’t do it all by yourself. The Mayo Clinic recommends doing the following:
- Ask for help—whether from your spouse, family members, or even friends. Someone may be willing to pick up groceries, cook, or talk your loved one on errands.
- Focus on what you are able to do. It’s easy to feel guilty for not being the “perfect” caregiver. But no one’s perfect: you’re doing the best you can.
- Stay connected with friends and family. Maintaining relationships will help you lower your stress level and make you happier.
- Get enough sleep and exercise, and eat healthy meals.
- See your doctor for check-ups regularly and make sure to visit your doctor if you’re feeling sick.
- Join support groups in your area for people in similar situations.
- Look into taking classes on caregiving from the Red Cross, Alzheimer’s Association, and your local hospital.
- Consider outside help. If you can afford it, consider employing the services of an adult care center, day hospital, home health aid, or short-term nursing home.
For more information, feel free to contact our firm or visit our Resources page to learn how to get help in your area.