Caregiver Support: The Importance of Seeking Help When You Need It

caregiver support
You take such good care of others—don’t forget to take care of yourself!
Image source: Flickr user gemsling

Being a caregiver for a loved one often means working hours that equate to a full-time job. In addition, you may actually be working a full-time job, as well as caring for your own family, or dealing with health problems. In all the day-to-day chaos and responsibilities, it’s easy to forget the one person who makes all this possible: you. Sometimes, reaching out for caregiver support seems like just one more thing on your “to do list.” But this task is different from all the others. Getting caregiver support is the one thing that will help you keep your health, your sanity, and your ability to continue in the caregiver role.

Caregiver support protects your health

If you’re looking after your elderly mom, dad, or loved one, you’ve probably put a lot into their health care. You see that they go to medical appointments, take the right prescriptions, and follow all treatments recommended by their physicians. But who is protecting your health? As a caregiver, are you doing all these things for yourself? It’s also important to make time to maintain a healthy diet and exercise routine, even if the meals are simple, and the exercise consists of a few walks around the block.

Prolonged stress has been linked to increased risk for numerous ailments, including contagious illnesses, strokes, and heart attacks, among others. Look at it this way: taking baby steps toward meeting health goals may prevent you from needing your own caretaker not too long in the future.

Caregiver support prevents burnout

Caregiver support maintains more than physical health – it supports psychological health and overall well-being too. Dozens of studies show a correlation between stress and depression. Prolonged tension can lead to insomnia, anxiety, irritability, difficulty concentrating, and other effects that make daily life difficult – and make caregiving seem like an impossible challenge. Exhaustion can set in, and soon, even the simplest problems seem overwhelming. By getting caregiver support before this chain of events takes place, you can prevent the long-term harm caused by burnout.

Where to find caregiver support

Don’t try to do it all – finding caregiver support is easier than you might think. Start with procuring help from family and friends. Ask if each person will take over one task that you find onerous. If you have four friends who can grocery shop for your loved one once a month, that’s one less errand for you to run all month long. Even if family members live long distances away, they can still provide phone support (and possibly chip in for financial assistance).

Caregiver support is also available on a professional level – and may be more affordable than you realize. Here are a few options you may want to consider:

  • A certified home health aide. This is someone who stays with your loved one for as many hours as you choose, either 24-7, 9-5, or even when you’re running errands. They can assist with feeding, toileting, giving medications, and other daily tasks when you’re unable to do so.
  • Adult day clubs. This is an excellent option if your senior lives with you or another family member, but still needs assistance and supervision during the day. An adult day club offers 9-5 socialization, medication monitoring, cognition-enhancing activities, and more.
  • Multipurpose Senior Services Program (MSSP). An MSSP is a care management program designed specifically for frail, low-income seniors who require more support at home. Nurses and social workers coordinate services the senior may need to stay in the home instead of seeking long-term care placement.

You can’t afford to neglect caregiver support

It’s easy to put off caregiver support – or even ignore it completely. But bear in mind that you do so at your peril, and at great risk to your loved one. Sometimes, the best way to help them is to help yourself. Reach out when you are in need, or preferably before. Prevent your own exhaustion and burnout by letting others lend a hand for a change. Being a caregiver doesn’t have to be a solo mission – remember, we are all in this together!

If you are unsure of how to best help an aging loved one, the trained and compassionate staff at the Institute on Aging is here to help you make that decision and gain the best in at-home senior care. Contact us to find out more.

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