For four years, I lived with and helped to take of my grandmother until she passed away in my arms, three years before her one hundredth birthday. I was deeply honored to be able to spend the last years of her life with her taking care of her.
Approximately three months later I could barely make it through the day from the mental and physical exhaustion I was experiencing. Being a caregiver for her all the time bankrupted my energy and left me with a thyroid problem and nutritionally deficient.
My story, unfortunately, is a common one for many caregivers, especially those caring for aging parents or older adults.
The definition of caregiver is broad -- one who cares for another. A caregiver gives assistance to another person who is not able to perform daily tasks required to take care of their household or personal hygiene.
Supporting another by assisting them with their personal and household activities can be an emotional and physically stressful experience.
Here are some symptoms to watch out for monitor your own stress level:
• Feeling tired or exhausted most of the time
• Feeling overwhelmed and irritable toward others
• Changes in sleeping patterns – either sleeping too much or not enough
• Changes in weight – either gaining or losing weight
• Losing interest in activities you once enjoyed
• Experiencing anxiety or mild depression
• Not maintaining sound lifestyle behaviors like healthy eating, sleeping or physical activity
It is important for caregivers to take steps to preserve their health so they can continue to care for their loved ones. Here are suggestions of how to manage the workload of caring for another.
Don’t give in to guilt
Guilt can cause you to take on more responsibility than you can handle. So don’t give in to guilt. You have to prioritize the most important tasks for your life and the person you are caring for. Do those tasks first and then if you have time and the energy, accomplish other tasks on your list.
Get help from others
Be creative in finding ways to accept help from other people.