This is a real issue. Statistics estimate that between 40% and 70% of family caregivers show signs of depression. I cannot emphasize enough how important it is that family caregivers take care of themselves.
It is all too easy to neglect oneself when more important matters are at hand. Matters like getting a loved one up in the morning and bathed and dressed and fed and cleaned and to that place where they like to be. It can be frustrating for the caregiver as all the things that they used to enjoy become just that – things they used to enjoy. Being a family caregiver is stressful! Many families have contacted my company looking for care because that “able bodied family caregiver” was suddenly not so able bodied after providing round the clock care for their spouse. Often the caregiver passes before the spouse for whom they were caring. How does a family keep that from happening? The first thing that has to happen is the family caregiver has to get help. Even if they think they don’t need it, they need support. Remember the 40% to 70% of family caregivers that exhibit symptoms of depression?
The most obvious way for a family caregiver to get relief is from other family members. Everyone needs to help. Usually, there is one family member that carries the bulk of the load. When it is an elderly couple it is usually a spouse. When there is a single elderly parent it is usually an adult child. If there are multiple siblings, it usually a daughter. My point is that there are usually other family members available to help out. Maybe that help takes the form of providing care for a few hours so the primary caregiver can get away. Maybe that help takes the form of financial support so that the primary caregiver can hire someone to help. Caring for a loved one is more than one person can or should handle. Just knowing that there are others involved in the process provides some relief to that primary caregiver. Being able to step away while knowing that your loved one is still being cared for can provide the stress relief and peace of mind so lacking amongst most family caregivers.
What about when there is just no one else? How does that primary family caregiver take care of themselves? There are numerous things that one can do to relieve stress and make that caregiving day more bearable. Breathing exercises can help. Exercise. Music. Some turn to prayer. The important thing is to not lose who you are while caring for someone you love. It is so easy to become so consumed by providing care for a loved one that everything that mattered, everything that made life worth living, gets abandoned because everything is focused on caring for someone else. Take care of yourself. If you listened to music make sure you continue to do so. If you loved gardening, why should caring for a loved one keep you from that? If you are a family caregiver you must find a way to take care of yourself. Be a part of the 30% of family caregivers that do not exhibit signs of depression.