Caregivers provide an incredible amount of support for their patients. However, they may not give themselves nearly the same amount of care. Some aren’t aware that they are neglecting themselves, others simply don’t believe they have the time for it. When caring for an elderly patient, more often the senior needs more help as time goes on, and not less. The fact of the matter is, without focusing on self-care, the health of the caregiver diminishes to such a point that they cannot even act as a caregiver.
In a 2011 study, the National Alliance for Caregiving tracked 1,222 caregivers who provided care for people with Alzheimer’s Disease. Over an 18-month period, the study found that the health of the caregivers declined and their usage of health care increased. They had double the visits to the emergency room, and nearly triple the number of visits to physicians as opposed to similarly aged people who were not caregivers.
A caregiver’s health may not deteriorate to a point where they can no longer provide their services, but they may find themselves not as attentive as before. What may increase risk is that a stressed caregiver may not pick up signals indicating that the patient’s condition is worsening.<br><br>
When parents are raising children, they have access to a wide variety of resources in the community. There are playgroups, other mothers in the area, daycare, and of course, school. Caregivers serving the elderly do not have nearly the same amount of resources and support available to them. When it comes down to it, caregivers must be proactive in keeping up relationships with family and friends, as well as maintaining outside interests. It’s important to avoid becoming isolated, just as they are trying to prevent isolation for the seniors in their care.
What can be done to help alleviate these pressures for a caregiver? Obviously, a patient cannot be abandoned, or simply shipped off to an assisted-care facility. First and foremost, caregivers must ensure they eat well, exercise, and get a proper night’s sleep. These are important basics of self-care. In addition, caregivers must give themselves a break now and then; grab coffee with a friend or go to the movies. A small break from caregiving each day provides an emotional and mental boost. Simply leaving the house and walking around the block can help.
A caregiver needs to make sure that their mind is focused on themselves as well as their patient. While a caregiver may not be failing their senior, they may be failing themselves, which will in turn affect both.