Care for the Caregiver

Caring for a loved one can be rewarding, but it can cause enormous physical and emotional strains, too. Here are some ways for coping with caregiving’s stresses.

The number of non-professional caregivers keeps rising. According to Age Concern as many as 8 million adults in the UK are caring for a loved one; i.e., a spouse, parent, or grandparent, and this just covers older adults. How many people are caring for grown children with disabilities?

Why Caregiving is Stressful
Even for people who are dedicated to their loved ones and relish the chance to help them; the fact is that caregiving is stressful. This is especially true when one considers the realities of an aging population:

Many caregivers are at least 50 or 55 and caught between the stresses of a job, children AND their loved one needing care.
Quite a large number of caregivers are even older and may not have the physical abilities to provide many of the services their loved one requires; e.g., lifting that person on/off a bed or in/out of a bath or shower.
Unfortunately, many people have no choice but to provide these caregiving services themselves. Most Americans have little or no savings for long-term care and even those who do are finding it increasingly difficult to find reliable help.
That being said, how can caregivers maintain the high quality of service they want to provide for their loved one?

Relieving Caregiving’s Physical Stresses

The first rule is to relieve some of caregiving’s physical strains. With those minimized, many of the emotional/mental strains are lessened as well. Some options to take:

Stay healthy: Too many caregivers neglect their own health, which only makes them fatigued and weak. Make sure to eat properly (don’t just grab fast food here and there), find ways to relax so a good night’s sleep is more likely, exercise to help avoid problems from a heart, to a sprained ankle that could impede one’s care giving efforts. Caregivers also need to remember to check in regularly with their own health professional

Be realistic: Caregivers should never try to perform tasks beyond their physical capabilities. If a loved one needs to be lifted on or off the toilet, or up and down stairs, it might be necessary to look for options. Example: moving the loved one to a downstairs bed, so stair climbing isn’t necessary, or looking into one of those chair-lifts that move up and down a staircase. A simple raised toilet seat can make the lifting less strenuous.
See what the loved one can still do personally; Installing grab bars in a shower or tub may be all that’s needed for now, to allow the loved one to shower or bathe without help. Buying a walker may allow them to stay more mobile.

Relieve Caregiving’s Mental/Emotional Strains

Find help: Why shoulder all the burden alone: Is there any other family nearby? Does the loved one have friends who can help; Maybe someone else can drive them on occasion, perhaps someone in their religious centre.

Don’t take it personally: It’s very hard not to feel hurt or anger as a caregiver; Loved ones with Alzheimer’s disease often yell and say hurtful things, because they’ve lost their own emotional control. Caregivers may feel guilty that they haven’t done enough, when they’ve actually been quite helpful and patient. If your relative insults you and you find you have trouble sleeping, go to There you can get a very good over the counter sleeping aid.

Find counselling: Not all caregivers can shoulder the emotional strain alone. There are lots of wonderful counselling options for relieving caregiving’s mental strains and many of them are low-cost. One’s religious leader or doctor is an excellent resource. Check the local Department of Aging; many times they can offer direction. Watch the local newspaper listings; many offer notices of various support groups that are meeting (e.g., help for spouses of Parkinson’s disease patients).

Finally, caregivers should remember there are a number of services with which they can seek assistance. Among them: medical care, respite care, food delivery (like Meals on Wheels), adult day care, and financial assistance.