As baby-boomers come into their later years, and as statics show, we are living longer, there is a growing need for caregivers. Often times those caregivers are family who take in the elderly relative for either financial reasons or concern that a senior home is not the right answer. In 2008 there was an estimated 65.7 million Americans caring for a relative and of course that number by now is much higher. It can be very rewarding to take on the responsibility, but also can be very stressful at times. Caregivers spend at least 40 hours a week on the tasks of preparing meals, taking them to Dr. appointments, bathing, doing laundry, dressing them and paying their bills. All this, plus the painful process of watching a love one's health fail, can take a huge toll on your own health. As you give into the stress, many other things in your life can be effected such as your job, sleep, and you won't do as good as a job of caring for your loved one. It can lead to higher cholesterol levels, high blood pressure and weight gain which can lead to heart disease, stroke and emotional suffering. These are some helpful suggestions for maintaining your own physical and mental health.
First, accept all your emotions, even negative ones. Dealing with negative emotions will help you find wisdom in them. Assess your abilities and limitations. Be aware of anyone that might be taking advantage of your kindness. Do not be shy about asking for help from other family members to take on certain tasks. Learn all that you can about whatever the illness is that they have and read about the best care for their particular needs. Find any support groups in your area or on line that can be of any assistance, or when you feel the need to talk to someone who can relate to whatever challenges you are facing at the time. There are several charitable organizations that can help. (www.lotsofhelpinghands.com) Ask your employer for assistance in a better more flexible schedule.
For your own physical health, make sure you eat a healthy diet and find a means of stress relief such as exercise, yoga, and meditation. There are several nutrients with stress-fighting ingredients such as vitamins B and C, mineral magnesium, and herbs ginseng and rhodiola.
Last, be sure to maintain your friendships, hobbies, and your relationship with the person you are caring for. Don't forget your own regular Dr. maintenance care.