Caregivers Have Needs Too06/22/2016

Caregivers Have Needs Too

Caregiving for a loved one is oftentimes a full-time job, especially when resources and financial support are limited. 

In fact, more than 15 million caregivers provided an estimated 18.1 billion hours of unpaid care in 2015 alone. 

Between balancing a day-to-day career and caring for a parent or child, the caregiver can be left exhausted and seeking much needed respite. Just like a loved one, caregivers have an array of needs but they tend to be forgotten due to busy schedules. Ensuring that caregivers receive support emotionally, socially, and physically is imperative to living a healthy and balanced lifestyle. Here are just a few ways to do that.

Emotional Needs

Talk to Family and Friends - As a caregiver, you may experience a lot of emotions including anger, guilt, sadness and depression. This is normal. Making time to speak with family or friends about experiences and struggles is key. Just having someone else listen can be therapy in itself. It's also very important to become aware of signs of anxiety or depression. If emotions become overwhelming, you should seek professional help.

Keep a Journal - Some people are introverts, but keeping a journal can help with this. Journals give you the ability to express yourself and look back on progresses made.

Take Time to Relax - Whether this be watching your favorite television show, praying, or reading, taking time to de-stress is key to staying emotionally balanced. 

Seek a Support Group  - Support groups are extremely common nowadays and available in most communities. Getting together with individuals facing similar issues can be refreshing and allows you to hear other perspectives and resolutions to problems. 

Council on Aging of West Florida offers multiple free monthly caregiver support groups at various locations in Escambia and Santa Rosa counties. View the full list HERE!

Social Needs

Keep a Close Circle - Creating a safe and close-knit circle of friends and family is key to staying sane. Everyone needs time to let loose and enjoy company with others. Try and make time every week or couple of weeks to have a lunch or coffee with a friend. 

Do What You Enjoy - Take up a hobby such as a cooking class or volunteer. Being around others with similar interests is not only good for the soul, but also a great way to meet new friends. 

Don't Isolate Yourself - It can be very easy for caregivers to isolate themselves from their regular day-to-day interests in fear of feeling guilty for leaving their loved one in the care of someone else. You must remember that caregivers are humans too and you have needs just like everyone else. Try and keep as social as possible. Laughter and positive interactions are a great way to get your mind off of current stresses. 

Physical Needs

Eat Right - It can be easy to go through the closest drive-thru for a quick meal  to avoid cooking, but the end result can be extremely damaging on your health. Try to make a meal plan each week and stick to the key food groups of vegetables, fruits, dairy and protein. Your loved one's health is important, but so is your own.

Exercise Regularly - This can be as simple as a 30-minute walk a day and stroll on your lunch break. Getting out in the fresh air and moving will not only improve your physical health, but it will stimulate your brain health as well.

Get the Recommended Eight - According to the National Institutes of Health, adults get 7-8 hours of sleep a night. Sleep is important for the function of every human being. Make sure you get ample amount of sleep and put the phone down before bed. It can be easy to become distracted by your phone before bed and before you know it, an hour has come and gone. 

Avoid Alcohol and Drugs - For those experiencing depression or anxiety, substance abuse can be common and an easy escape for overwhelmed caregivers. Instead, manage problems head on. If you find yourself resorting to drugs or alcohol, you should seek professional help.

Taking care of yourself while caregiving for a child or senior can be extremely challenging, but making the time is rewarding and essential in staying happy and healthy. Take a step back to evaluate your emotional, social, and physical needs, and make time for YOU! You deserve it.

For more information on Council on Aging's support groups or programs, give COA a call at (850) 432-1475.

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