Caring for a loved one is an admirable job, but it can be just that–a job. Most adult children who take care of their loved ones don’t get paid for providing care for a family member. Along with the potential financial strain associated with caregiving there are also the added stress and health consequences that caregivers face every day. And most of those caregivers happen to be women.
So, in honor of Mother’s Day, we would like to recognize all of the adult daughters who serve as caregivers for their senior loved ones.
Women Bear the Burden of Caregiving
Research has shown that the adult daughters of seniors are twice as likely as sons to step up and care for their parents, “regardless of job status, child-care duties and other variables.”
In women’s constant struggle to have it all, they have also been doing it all, and often at the expense of their own health. The added emotional, mental and financial toll can lead caregivers to develop medical problems of their own.
- Stress. We know stress can manifest itself physically in many different ways. Symptoms of stress include low energy, headaches, upset stomach, muscle tension, chest pain, insomnia and a lowered immune system. A study found that the added stress from caring for an aging family member has led to a 29 percent increase in the use of anti-anxiety medication among caregivers.
- Depression. Stress mixed with the isolation often felt by caregivers can lead to depression. It rarely happens suddenly. Instead, depression gradually builds over time and can take appear in both emotional and physical ways. Typical signs of depression include feelings of sadness, hopelessness, negativity, irritability, insomnia, loss of appetite, or persistent aches and pains.
- Chronic Illness. Chronic stress has been linked to high blood pressure, heart disease and obesity. While health problems can be genetic, they may also be brought on by stress and poor maintenance, both of which are common among caregivers.
It’s not all doom and gloom, however. A recent survey from the National Opinion Research Center found that the overwhelming majority of caregivers felt that caring for a loved one was a positive experience.
The Power of Women Caregivers
Women are natural caregivers, but that doesn’t mean that it’s easy. This Mother’s Day, we’d like to honor all of the adult daughters across the Hoosier state who are caregivers. You certainly deserve a break!
- Take Time for Yourself. Whether it’s just 15 minutes of sitting in silence, a long bath at the end of the night or a spa day, taking the time to do something for yourself can help alleviate some of the stress that comes along with balancing work and family obligations. Some “me time” always does a body good!
- Commit to Exercise. Exercise is a great way to combat stress, especially when caring for a loved one. If it’s too tough to make it to the gym, slip on some sneakers and head outside for a 30 minute walk or run. You can also break it up in to two fifteen minute walks and reap the same benefits. Aside from the fresh air, listening to music or birds chirping combined with the rush of endorphins will help you feel better.
- Take Up Meditation. Meditation is an ancient practice that has been known to calm the mind, body and spirit. All you need is 10-20 minutes a day and a quiet place to sit and you can meditate! Meditation has been proven to help with stress relief, sleep and your immune system. Apps like Calm or Stop, Breathe & Think can help you get started.
- Time with Friends. It helps to share the weight on your shoulders with other people who love you. Don’t worry about being a burden–that’s what friends are for! A chat with a good friend can have a positive impact on your overall health.
Finally, give yourself permission to take breaks from caregiving. Five Star communities offer respite services and short-term stays. Call the community nearest you to learn more.