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The National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP estimate that there are more than 44.4 million caregivers in the US who provide care for the elderly.
Caregivers are unsung heroes in our world. Many of them are not paid for their time when they care for their aging relatives. Oftentimes, they are rarely thanked for their endless efforts. On average, caregivers spend 20 hours per week caring for their loved ones, while also holding a full-time job.
According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, caregiving spouses (between 66 and 96 years of age) who experience emotional or mental strain have a 63 percent higher risk of dying than non-caregivers.
While caregivers are caring for their loved ones, many of them forget about their own needs. In order to be successful caregivers, they must remember to take care of themselves and their health.
It has been reported that caregivers tend to forget about their own health issues and diets. Many gain weight and may develop side effects from their weight gain, such as high blood pressure.
More importantly, caregivers carry an emotional burden when care for someone they love. Many caregivers feel helpless because of the difficulty of watching their loved ones lose their independence.
Some caregivers suffer from anxiety and depression. One study said more than 43 percent of caregivers surveyed said ʺthey did not feel they had a choice in taking on this role.ʺ
The study also found more than 20 percent of employed female caregivers suffered symptoms of depression. Another study estimated ʺ46 percent to 59 percent of caregivers are clinically depressed.ʺ
The National Caregiving Alliance offers these tips for caregiver self-care:
• See a doctor about your own healthcare needs
• Visit a dietician or take a refresher course on proper nutrition
• Participate in support group
• Sleep 7-8 hours
• Exercise 30 minutes per day
• Learn and use stress-reduction techniques
• Take time off
• Find a creative outlet (dance class, pottery, art, etc.)
• Consider counseling or therapy
• Accept and don’t judge your feelings
• Develop a positive strategy for your temporary situation