For the media

Advice for caregivers

By The Health News Team | March 14, 2024
Advice for family caregivers

As people age, it can become difficult or impossible for them to handle daily activities, such as bathing, grocery shopping, cooking, managing medications and paying bills. Many times, family and friends step in to assist their loved ones.

In the U.S., more than 40 million people act as caregivers, providing unpaid care for older adults with chronic illnesses or conditions that prevent them from being able to care for themselves. People become caregivers for many reasons.

They may see a friend in need and want to help. Often, relatives step in to help a parent or grandparent who can’t quite do things the way they used to do. Sometimes, a traumatic accident leaves a person incapable of managing daily activities.

“When someone assumes the responsibility of being a caregiver, it can potentially have a major impact on their own life,” says Dan McNamara, program coordinator at the Sharp Community Resource Center. “It’s a 24/7 job that might even be thankless at times."

Caregivers take on the tremendous burden of caring for another person’s health and well-being, he explains. All the while, they still have to live their own lives — which may include working full time and raising children.

Care for the caregiver

Caregiving can be physically and emotionally exhausting. Making time for self-care is of utmost importance for yourself and the person you're caring for.

Make an effort to stay well-connected with family and friends. Eat a healthy diet and be active. Most importantly, take time for yourself. Respite services allow caregivers to take a break to manage their daily lives or find a brief reprieve.

Joining a support group can be extremely helpful and can benefit your mental health. Support groups bring caregivers together, relieve feelings of isolation and give people a chance to exchange stories and ideas. They also provide education and a fresh perspective on how to care for others while practicing self-compassion and self-care.

While many caregivers may find it difficult to practice self-care — or even feel guilty for it — taking quality time to rest and reset is key to caring for others.

McNamara offers the following reminders:

  • You are not alone. There's plenty of support and help around you — sometimes just a phone call away. Sharp’s Community Resource Center can help connect caregivers with the right resources at the right time and answer any questions they might have.

  • You are more than just a caregiver. You’re a partner, husband, wife, daughter, son, friend and more. Don’t forget the why that defines the “care” in caregiver for you.

  • If you’re trying, you’re succeeding. Don’t get stuck on the idea that you could — or should — do more. You are enough. If you can’t do it anymore, find the resources and people who can. That does not mean you failed; it just means you need more people on your team. 

To learn more about caring for a loved one and to sign up for Sharp Community Resource Center’s free caregiving basics workshop or caregiver support group, register online or call 1-800-82-SHARP (1-800-827-4277).

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