Look around and you’ll see caregivers. In the U.S., 1 in 3 adults give care to others. Caregivers may be taking care of elderly parents, a sick spouse or a disabled child.
Being a caregiver can be very stressful and demanding. It can even lead to caregiver burnout, a feeling of mental, physical and emotional exhaustion. That can lead to poor health or feelings of depression or anxiety, which can trigger unhealthy behaviors, like smoking or abusing alcohol.
Watch for Signs
Learn the warning signs of caregiver burnout. The Cleveland Clinic says that may look like:
- Getting sick more often
- Feeling irritated or moody
- Changes in sleep patterns
- Changes in appetite, weight or both
- Denial about your loved one’s health problem
- Anger or frustration toward the person you’re caring for
- Exhaustion (that makes it tough to complete your daily tasks
- Social withdrawal from people and activities that you used to enjoy
- Thinking about hurting yourself or the person for whom you are caring
If you are feeling burnt out, find ways you can take care of yourself. Keep yourself healthy by:
- Accepting help. List the ways that others can help you. Let the helper choose what they would like to do. They could pick up groceries or take your loved one for a walk.
- Focusing on what you can do. It’s normal to feel guilty sometimes. No one is a “perfect” caregiver. Believe that you are doing the best you can at any given time.
- Having negative feelings. It’s normal to feel upset or angry about your duties or with your loved one. It does not mean you are a bad person.
- Setting realistic goals. Break large tasks into smaller steps. Start to say no to requests that are draining, such as hosting holiday meals.
- Getting connected. Find out about caregiving support in your community. Caregiving services such as transportation, meal delivery or housekeeping can help.
- Seeking social support. Find someone you trust to talk to about your feelings and frustrations. Set aside time each week for connecting.
- Joining a caregiver support group. Sharing your feelings and experiences with others in the same situation can help you handle stress. Find helpful support to feel less lonely. There’s even a free Caregiver Help Desk.
- Be realistic about your loved one’s disease. Know that there may come a time when your loved one needs nursing services or assisted living outside the family home. Reach out to others in similar roles, says the Family Caregiving Alliance.
- Talking to a professional. Most therapists, social workers and clergy members are trained to counsel people dealing with a wide range of physical and emotional issues.
- Take care of your own health. AARP suggests you aim for good sleep routine, physical activity most days of the week, and healthy diet.
- Taking advantage of respite care. Respite care gives a short break. This can range from a few hours of in-home care to a short stay in a nursing facility. Use the Access to Respite Care and Help (ARCH) National Respite Network and Resource Center’s National Respite Locator.
If you need any more help (such as finding a provider), please call us at the number on the back of your BCBSIL member ID card. We are here to help.