Who’s Caring for the Caregivers?

If you are part of the “sandwich generation,” you spend a lot of time caring for both your aging parents and your children. As a result, you may not give yourself enough tender, love, and care.

According to the Family Caregiver Alliance, taking care of a sick, ailing, or elderly family member can cause health problems varying from mental and emotional strain (it is a prolonged, high-stress situation, after all) to a higher risk of dying. Add taking care of kids to the mix and the risk for depression and chronic illness increases. You may also experience a decline in your quality of life.

Placing other people’s needs over yours can lead to problems like poor sleep, an unhealthy diet, lack of exercise and missed doctor’s appointments. All of this even has its own term: Caregiver Stress Syndrome.

There are some warning signs that you need to start focusing on yourself more. These include:

  • Cutting back on hobbies
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, and resent
  • Overreacting to small issues

If those sound familiar, there are some small things you can do to make your life better while still caring for those who need you. If you feel absolutely overwhelmed, talking with a therapist might help put some things in perspective and set boundaries.

You also should try asking for help and engaging in short bursts of activities that make you feel more healthy (gardening, grabbing coffee with a friend, walking, whatever). And don’t feel guilty for doing those things: You can take care of others if you don’t take care of yourself.

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Photo credit: McBeth

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