November is National Family Caregiver Month, a month dedicated to providing support and raising awareness for the 66 million Americans who are providing care for ill, disabled or aging relatives.
If you are caring for a senior loved one in Michigan, you know that this job can be both rewarding and demanding. But you may not be aware that helping an older adult with daily-living tasks could be taking a serious toll on your health and relationships.
Caregiving can be harmful to your health
According to the Family Caregiver Alliance, family caregivers report more health issues and seem to suffer from a lowered immunity. About 10 % report that assisting a loved one with hygiene, meals, medications, errands and housecleaning has caused their own health to decline. A stunning 40-70% of caregivers report symptoms of depression.
Most family caregivers devote about 20 hours a week to their loved ones in need. Research shows that adults who spend more than a few hours a week caring for others are more likely to suffer from physical illness and mental strain. They are also less likely to visit a doctor, to exercise and to eat a balanced diet.
But there is good news. Studies confirm that that education, access to resources and community support can relieve a lot of the stress and strain of caring for an aging parent, whether they are in the home or in an assisted-living community.
Resources for healthy caregiving
These websites can help you locate the information, resources and services that will support you as a caregiver.
- AARP Home and Family Caregiving: An educational resource where caregivers can learn strategies for juggling work and caregiving, dealing with stress and living healthier lives. This is also home to a busy online community where you can talk with other caregivers and ask experts for advice.
- The Alzheimer’s Association Caregiver Center: If you are providing Alzheimer’s or dementia care, this is a great resource for support. You can talk to others in the caregiver discussion boards and access materials that may ease your caregiving duties. This website also offers a Community Resource Finder that can help you locate events, services and support options in the Great Lakes State.
- Michigan Aging and Adult Services: These government agency websites offer links to educational resources, support groups and workshops that can make caregiving less stressful. You can also find information about adult-day care and enrichment programs, assistance with in-home care and services like home-delivered meals.
- The National Caregiver’s Library: A storehouse of information covering every aspect of caregiving. This helpful resource includes a section dedicated to educating employers of caregivers.
- Video Caregiving: An online library of informative mini-documentaries where people share their stories and offer informative tips to support caregivers.
Please help us spread the word about National Family Caregiving Month by sharing this article with your personal network of family and friends!
Family caregivers have a stressful and demanding role. Largely made up of women who work at least part-time and who care for children of their own, the demands on their time are often impossible to manage. While a support group seems like the obvious choice to helping them to better cope, finding the time to attend a meeting may create even more stress. Online caregiver support groups can be a solution.
Why are support groups helpful to caregivers and what sites offer online forums?
The Mayo Clinic tackled the first of these two questions. They found that:
- Sharing feelings with those who are walking their same path is by far the biggest advantage. The moral support and understanding peer groups offer can help relieve guilt, fear and anxiety that often accompany caregiving.
- Online support groups offer the advantage of anonymity. It gives caregivers an outlet for talking honestly about their feelings. If a caregiver is feeling guilty for snapping at a loved one with dementia when they ask the same question over and over and over, they will no doubt find people in the group who have had that experience.
- Online communities allow participants to join in when they can. That is a huge advantage for overwhelmed caregivers. They can jump online at midnight after their loved one has fallen asleep or over lunch at their desk.
How can a caregiver find an online support groups?
There are a variety of organizations that help to connect family caregivers with an online support group that meets their unique needs. Here are just a few to consider:
- Caring.com (www.Caring.com ) this comprehensive site for caregivers combines ratings, reviews, education articles and online support groups.
- Family Caregiver Alliance http://www.caregiver.org/caregiver/jsp/content_node.jsp?nodeid=347 is a part of the National Center on Caregiving. They can match you with an online support group in their network.
- SupportGroups.com (www.SupportGroups.com) is a great place to find a support group devoted to your particular aging or health related need. Topics range from anxiety and depression to cancer.
- AgingCare.com http://www.agingcare.com/Caregiver-Forum this educational site offers support to caregivers ranging from articles to Q&A to online support groups.
If you are Michigan caregiver and you prefer an in-person support group, we invite you to contact the Heritage Senior Community nearest you for more information.
Caregivers already have a lot on their plate. The emotional and physical toll of caregiving can be sizable, especially if a senior loved one has dementia. This makes them extra vulnerable to stress when the busy holiday season rolls around. If it’s not managed properly, stress can lead to burnout.
Here are 4 ways to beat caregiver stress during the holidays.
4 Ways to Beat Caregiver Stress During the Holidays
- Understand Where Your Stress Comes From
The first step to beating caregiver stress is to identify where your stress comes from. Once you identify the situations that cause the most stress, you can try to avoid them.
Here are a few common reasons caregivers get stressed during the holiday season.
- Not having enough time.
- Family relationships.
- Setting unrealistic expectations.
- Financial concerns.
- Know Your Limitations
One of the biggest mistakes caregivers make is thinking they can do everything. You can save yourself a lot of grief by accepting this is just a myth. Not even the most energetic caregivers can do it all.
Here are a few ways you can limit your responsibilities.
- Modify traditions. It’s okay to simplify or even skip holiday traditions. Even if you traditionally host celebrations or prepare the meals, it’s okay to opt out this year.
- Decline invitations. Don’t feel obligated to attend every event you are invited to. Your friends and family will understand if you have to say no.
- Make Your Health a Priority
During the holidays, caregivers are often so busy that they neglect their health. Unfortunately, this will put you on the quickest path to burnout.
Here are a few ways caregivers can stay healthy this season.
- Don’t overindulge in treats. The holidays are often full of sweets, alcohol, and other unhealthy treats. While it’s okay to enjoy a few treats, it’s not okay to overindulge. Doing so can leaving you feeling sluggish.
- When you are exhausted, exercise may be the last thing you want to do. But contrary to what you may think, exercise can boost your mental and physical energy. Try your best to incorporate exercise in to your daily routine.
- Ask for Help
Caregiving is a lot of work, and sometimes you will need help. Here are a few ways caregivers can get support:
- Join a support group. Support groups can be a great way for you to connect with people who face similar challenges.
- Ask friends and family members. If you need additional help during the holidays, don’t hesitate to ask friends and family. Most of the time they will be happy to assist you.
- Explore respite care. Many senior communities like Heritage offer short-term respite care. This allows caregivers to take a break by offering their loved ones a safe place to stay.
The Holidays Can Be a Wakeup Call
The holidays can be a great chance for your family to see firsthand how much work you put in as a caregiver. This time of year may even encourage them to start thinking about your loved one’s long-term care. That may mean touring a local assisted living community, such as Heritage. Contact us to ask about the services offered by any of the Heritage Senior Communities.