“Caregiving Around the Clock” is the theme for this year’s National Family Caregivers Association, recognizing family caregivers. The first NFC Month Presidential Proclamation was issued by the White House in 1997, and every president since has followed suit by issuing an annual proclamation recognizing and honoring family caregivers in November.
Nearly 60% of these caregivers work outside of the home. Some caregivers may feel overwhelmed at times because of their “double duty”. Because of this caregivers are encouraged to take some time off from their job for a period of time when possible. Employees covered under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act may be able to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave a year to care for relatives. The human resources office at their employer should know the options for unpaid leave.
With the typical tenure for a caregiver of 1-3 years, caregivers leave their jobs for different reasons, but most often it is because of the stress of caring for a loved one.
The signs of caregiver stress can be:
- Feeling overwhelmed or constantly worried
- Often feeling tired
- Getting too much or not enough sleep
- Gaining or losing weight
- Becoming easily irritated or angry
- Lack of interest in activities you used to enjoy
- Feeling sad
- Having frequent headaches, bodily pain or other physical problems
- Abusing alcohol or drugs, including prescription medications
Because of the stress, caregivers need a chance to recharge and obtain emotional support, recognition and understanding from others of the role they play within the family. If they are paid by family, any wage should be commensurate with the care provided as much as possible.
The emotional and physical demands involved with caregiving can strain even the most resilient person, making it so important to take advantage of the many resources and tools available to help caregivers provide care for a loved one. If they don’t take care of themselves, they won’t be able to care for anyone else.
To help manage caregiver stress:
- Accept help; have a list and available so that others know how to help
- Focus on what you are able to provide
- Set realistic goals; learn to say no to requests that are draining
- Get connected by learning about caregiving resources in your community.
- Join a support group that can provide validation and encouragement, as well as problem-solving strategies for difficult situations
- Seek social support
- Set personal health goals
- See your doctor
It may be hard to leave a loved one in someone else’s care, but taking a break can be one of the best things that a caregivers can do for themselves, as well as for the person they are caring for. Most communities have some type of respite care available, such as in-home respite where aides come into your home for a period of time, adult care centers/programs, or short term respite care available in assisted living communities. It is not unusual for caregivers to have a hard time asking for help. Unfortunately, this attitude can lead to feeling isolated, frustrated and even depression.
Rather than struggling on your own, take advantage of local resources for caregivers. To get started, check out the Eldercare Locator or contact your local Area Agency on Aging (AAA) to learn about services in your community. You can find your local AAA online or in the government section of your telephone directory.