Caring for the caregiver requires effort, teamwork
July 1, 2022 | View PDF
In 2020, nearly one in five Americans was providing unpaid caregiving to an adult with health or functional needs. That’s 53 million caregiving nationwide. This number is expected to continue to grow as the senior population increases through the middle of the century. Nearly a quarter of those providing care are providing care for two or more people, while simultaneously working full or part time jobs.
The fact is, caregiving can be an emotional rollercoaster, rewarding in its demonstration of love and commitment and also exhausting, overwhelming and isolating. Prolonged mental and emotional stress takes a toll on the physical and mental health of caregivers. Research has demonstrated that unpaid family caregivers often put off their own needs, resulting in higher incidence of chronic illness, depression, anxiety and mortality. Lack of sleep, poor eating habits, lack of physical exercise, lack of perceived social support, and postponement of healthcare needs result in lower quality of life for both the caregiver and their loved one.
Care for your future self
Self-care and stress management are vital to the wellbeing and longevity of caregivers and their families. Self-care is initiated behavior that people choose to incorporate into their day to day lives with the intention of promoting their health and well-being. Self-care is not simply bubble baths and mani-pedis. Self-care is self-parenting. Doing things now that your future self will thank you for. Are you drinking enough water? Eating nutritious food? Moving your body? Going to checkups with your primary care provider? Taking care of your spiritual needs? Getting enough sleep? Engaging in activities that replenish and nourish your soul?
These simple acts of self-care are often put off or neglected altogether when unpaid family caregivers are primarily concerned with the needs of their spouse or parent. However, these too are vital parts of the caregiving role. Learn and use stress reduction techniques like mindfulness, meditation, yoga or prayer.
Asking for and accepting help can often be difficult for caregivers who feel it is their responsibility to do everything. In the early 20th century, caregiving was a task undertaken by a community. It enlisted the help of extended family, neighbors and community members. In modern times, caregiving can feel isolating, with changing family roles and dynamics and feeling that there is lack of time for self-care. Seeking out support is as important to the caregiver’s health as it is to the person receiving care. Friends, neighbors, members of your congregation, co-workers are likely willing to help and support in tangible ways. Finding ways to communicate your needs clearly and specifically increases the likelihood of getting the help that will be most meaningful.
Caregiving is often invisible and undervalued. This summer, Hospice of Anchorage and our partners are working to show our appreciation for all that family caregivers do. Care for the Carer is our way of encouraging caregivers to take time out for themselves. Free gift boxes with self-care items are available through August for any unpaid caregiver in the community. If you are a caregiver or know someone who is, please contact Hospice of Anchorage today to pick up your box and chat with any of our staff about caregiving and self-care. Call 907-561-5322 or visit 2612 E. Northern Lights Blvd.
Sarah Pype is the Palliative Care Case Manager for Hospice of Anchorage.