Throughout the holiday season, I once again reflect on caregivers everywhere. According to a report by the National Alliance for Caregiving in collaboration with the AARP, over 65 million people, 29 percent of the US population, provide support to a family member or friend who is chronically ill, disabled, or aged. Caregivers spend an average of 20 hours per week providing for their loved ones. Approximately 66 percent of family caregivers are women. 37 percent of caregivers have children or grandchildren under 18 years old living with them.
Caregivers at any age is challenging at times. Being responsible for the medical, emotional, and financial care and well being of a loved one, especially if one is the sole caregiver, can be a lonely role. If there is a shared responsibility with other family members, making collective decisions can also pose challenges.
The caregiver(s) must keep their own health in check. Family caregivers exhibit fully dedicated caretaking, with many tasks for which they have had no training, and little support. Nearly half have provided complex medical tasks such as wound care or giving injections at times. All this can cause the experience of emotional distress, anxiety and social isolation. Ongoing stress can put the caregiver's health at risk, even impact family relationships.
As the holidays bring on more pressures, it might be helpful to keep in mind the following tips to balance caring for a loved one with the caregiver being mindful of their own health:
1. Between a hectic holiday schedule and ongoing care taking responsibilities, try to carve out just a little down time for yourself to preserve your stamina and physical strength to continue your caregiving role.
2. Save a little time in the day to get some fresh air (weather permitting) and a little exercise.
3. Maintain a regular and balanced meal schedule - treat yourself to a meal prep resource such as Freshly (www.freshly.com) or Savor Health (www.savorhealth.com) so that all you have to do is heat and serve. That's if these resources are available in your area.
4. Set a time in the day to meditate or just for some quiet time, or a creative outlet to refresh your mind and the rest of your body.
5. Don't be shy about asking for help because more than likely, people are standing by to be asked and it will be rewarding for them to be able to help you, especially if they offer on their own to help.
6. Keep a good dose of patience; keep emotions in check, and don't take things personally. Find a positive message in a poem, a book, etc. to illuminate the start and end of your day.
A few resource sites offered for Caregivers (along with community resources that may be available in your area):