Being the caregiver for a loved one is a labor of love for most. However, if you are a caregiver, you can attest to the long, busy days and the increasing emotional stress you feel, especially if you are the lone family caregiver.
Now, there's the added stress of caregiving during a pandemic and the extra precautions demanded of you, such as limiting the number of visitors your loved one has, requiring other family members to practice social distancing and wear facemasks around you and your loved one, and determining where to have your loved one tested if you suspect they've been exposed to someone with COVID-19. Caregiving has never been easy, but this is an especially tough time to be a caregiver.
Senior Caregiving in 2020
A report compiled by AARP and the National Alliance for Caregiving shined a light on who is taking on the role of caring for a dear friend or family member. A few notable findings from the research include:
- One in five Americans has provided care to a senior loved one or child with special needs in the last 12 months.
- As baby boomers age, they continue to require more care and assistance at home.
- 24% of caregivers are caring for two or more loved ones. This is up from 18% in 2015.
- 89% of caregivers are assisting a relative; most of the time it is an adult child caring for a parent.
- Care recipients today have greater and more complex needs than in 2015.
- Caregivers often cite difficulty accessing and coordinating medical care due to their loved one's health care system.
- Women continue to account for the bulk of family caregivers.
- While caregivers say they find the role meaningful, 21% also admit to feeling lonely.
- One in five caregivers says their budget and financial well-being have been negatively impacted by their duties.
If you're a caregiver, you no doubt identify with one or more of those trends. If so, you may appreciate tips on how to cope with the challenges you face as a caregiver.
4 Tips for Coping with Family Caregiver Challenges
Caring for a loved one can cause your own health to decline. Caregivers often experience higher rates of headaches, digestive problems, back pain, and depression. The stress from juggling so many responsibilities can weaken the immune system. This puts caregivers at higher risk for colds and the flu.
Finding positive ways to manage the stresses of caregiving is essential to protecting a caregiver's physical and mental health. Here are a few suggestions to explore if you or a caregiver you know is struggling:
- Practice healthy self-care: This may seem unrealistic when you are already overwhelmed by a never-ending to-do list or your fear that your loved one will be exposed to the flu or COVID-19. Caring for yourself is essential. A healthy diet, exercise, and sleep are vital, as is staying on track with physician appointments and routine health screenings and following guidelines to protect yourself from the coronavirus with social distancing, facemasks, and hand-washing.
- Join an online support group: No one better understands the unique challenges of caregiving like a fellow caregiver. By joining an online caregiver support group, you gain insight from peers and have a sounding board when times are tough. Finding an Online Caregiver Support Group offers tips for connecting with one.
- Explore convenience services and health resources: From grocery delivery through companies like Shipt, Amazon Fresh or Instacart, to home-delivered meal programs, such as Silver Cuisine or your local Meals on Wheels, there is a variety of services to make your caregiving easier. Think about your most time-consuming tasks and explore avenues for handling them. For example, ask your favorite restaurants if they work with DoorDash or Uber Eats. Call your local pharmacy to see if prescriptions can be delivered and if they provide flu shots and COVID-19 testing.
- Ask for and accept help: Sometimes caregivers feel solely responsible for a loved one's care. You may feel it is your duty or have difficulty trusting others to help. An essential part of being a good caregiver is accepting that you can't do it all alone. Allowing others to help also gives you peace of mind in case you must turn to friends and family or an outside trusted family partner like Five Star. Help is available when you and your loved one are ready to accept it. Find a Five Star senior living community near you and reach out to our team of senior living experts to help you find the best solution for you and your loved one.
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