More than 40 million Americans act as caregivers, providing unpaid care for older adults with chronic illnesses or conditions that prevent them from being able to care for themselves.
What does it mean to be a caregiver?
People become caregivers for many reasons. They may see a need in a friend 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 have a major impact on their own life,” says Dan McNamara, program coordinator at Sharp Grossmont Hospital’s Senior Resource Center.
“It’s a 24/7 job that sometimes might even be thankless. Caregivers take on the tremendous burden of not only caring for another person’s health and well-being, but a person who can’t take care of themselves,” he says. “All the while, they still have to live their own lives — which may even include working full time and raising children.”
Caregiving can be physically and emotionally exhausting. Making time for self-care is of utmost importance for both the caregiver as well as the person for whom they are caring. Make an effort to stay well-connected with family and friends. Eat healthy and be active. Most importantly, take time for oneself. Respite services allow caregivers to take a break to manage their daily lives or find a brief reprieve.
Care for the caregiver
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 for caregivers:
- You are not alone. There is plenty of support and help around you, sometimes just a phone call away. Sharp’s Senior Resource Centers can help connect caregivers with the best resources at the right time and answer any questions they might have.
- You are more than just a caregiver. You’re a 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 “I could 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.
For the news media: To talk with Dan McNamara about caregiving for an upcoming story, contact Erica Carlson, senior public relations specialist, at firstname.lastname@example.org.