Coping as a family caregiver

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To be most effective as a caregiver, ensure you take care of yourself.

Individuals are born into the world requiring the care of their parents and other adult guardians to grow and thrive. These adult children, in turn, may end up providing care when their parents reach senior age or face an illness or disability.
Becoming a family caregiver frequently is a tough choice to make. It requires patience and time, and can be emotionally and physically taxing. An estimated 43.5 million adults in the United States have provided unpaid care to an adult or a child in the prior 12 months, according to the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP Public Policy Institute.
It’s not uncommon for caregivers of any age to feel stressed and burned out by the demands of caregiving. The Mayo Clinic says people who experience caregiver stress can be vulnerable to changes in their own health. Some signs of caregiver stress include:

• Feeling overwhelmed or constantly worried
• Feeling tired most of the time
• Gaining or losing a lot of weight
• Becoming easily irritated or angry
• Losing interest in activities you used to enjoy
• Having frequent headaches, bodily pain or other physical problems

Some caregivers even resort to drugs and alcohol to self-medicate, which can lead to further issues. To avoid the potential pitfalls of caregiver stress, individuals should always put their needs first and find ways to alleviate the added stress of caring for a loved one. These suggestions are just a start.

Don’t strive for perfection
It isn’t possible to maintain a patient attitude and get everything done perfectly each and every day. People are not perfect and mistakes will be made. Do not punish yourself if you lash out or simply need a break.
Eat healthy
As anyone who has dealt with a hungry toddler can attest, failure to eat well and frequently can result in an emotional meltdown. Be sure to always make time for nutritious meals. This will help keep up energy stores and enable you to better cope with caregiver stress.
Pay attention to mood changes
Anxiety or depression can sneak up on you when you least expect it. Ask for help if you feel your tasks are becoming too overwhelming. Seek the help of a doctor if changes in mood, sleeping patterns, appetite, and the like become noticeable.
Take frequent breaks
Getting a break from caregiving and setting aside time for yourself can increase patience levels and the ability to bounce back from stress. Whenever possible, have a friend or another relative step in for you so you get a break. Explore resources available for professional aides to come and take some of the responsibilities off of your shoulders.
Being a caregiver can be a rewarding, but challenging role to play. Caregivers should keep their health a priority.

MS

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