Caring for an older family member can be very demanding. Recent studies have shown that caregivers suffer physical, emotional, financial, and familial difficulties due to the stresses of caring for a loved one. Recently, professionals have been advocating for respite periods ranging from a five-minute break to extended periods because respite care has been proven to have no adverse affects on the care recipient, and is helpful to the caregiver.
Below are eight ways you’ll see improvement if you schedule breaks in care.
Less Frequent Illnesses
Stress takes a physical toll. For example, persistent stress can weaken our immune systems and make us more susceptible to illnesses. Something we tend to ignore, but is very telling, is unexplained back pain or frequent headaches. These may be a result of an overtaxed mind sending distress signals.
Where to find help: Speak to a doctor about these persistent aches and pains, or frequent colds and flus, and discuss with him or her ways to regain a healthy lifestyle.
Extensive caregiving can take an emotional toll as much as a physical one. Check in with yourself frequently. You may be exhausted and not realize it. How are you feeling? Have you been anxious lately? Is it difficult to relax at the end of the day or sleep well? If you are having persistent negative emotions, then it is time to reach out. Respite care can help provide rest, peace of mind, and lessen anxiety.
Where to find help: Seek out a counselor to help you find the best way to recollect yourself and feel better.
Joy in Caregiving (Again)
Anger and frustration are big signals that you are looking for a change in your situation or for help. Having comfort and support in caring can help you regain the joy of caring for your loved one.
Where to find help: Check out online or community support groups. You may find solutions you never thought of and understand that you’re not in it alone.
With improved emotional stability and energy, you may find yourself capable of seeing friends and socializing again. Reconnecting with friends and family will improve other areas of life as well. Scheduling respite care and regular breaks may help you do the things you love.
Where to find help: Check in with friends and reconnect. Hire an agency for an evening out with your significant other. Take a personal day from work and spend it doing something fun with your kids.
With the emotional stress of constant care, most people choose to impulsively eat sweets (or, potentially turn to solutions like alcohol) or other “comfort foods” more than usual. With time to think, prepare, and cope, diet and health regimens typically improve with respite care.
Where to find help: Take notes of the events of the day and what was going on when the cravings started. It may help you avoid those trigger points and reach out for help, instead of reaching for the sweets.
One of the most common losses in caregiving is a healthy sleep pattern. Sleep goes out the window when you wake to check on your loved one, or their sleep patterns change. Sleep deprivation reduces our ability to cope, especially for people who are already burning the candle at both ends while managing everyone’s needs. Hiring a caregiver to be present during night-time hours once or twice a week can be a cost effective way to reduce your sleep debt and improve your overall function.
Where to find help: Temporary respite care can step in when you need to catch up on your rest and get restored.
Heightened Mental Function
Being well rested and emotionally healthy can help remind us that there is more life ahead. Giving time to things like long term planning, personal health care, family connection, and financial management are possible when you aren’t carrying the torch alone. We need time pick our heads up from the grind of daily activities to stay objective and do long-term planning.
Where to find help: Consider asking other family members to lend an extra hand in day-to-day activities any way they can. If everyone is helping as much as possible, it’s time to seek outside help.
Recognizing Changing Conditions
Maybe your loved one needs rehabilitation or has a progressive illness. It’s important to remember that you are not abandoning your loved one just because your role in the caregiving process needs to change. The reality is that no one person can take on the demands of caregiving alone—no matter how strong, or how available he or she is. Getting healthy means recognizing when you can no longer do it alone.
Where to find help: Seek out professional in-home care and contact your parents’ insurance company to see what is available for your situation.