Caregiving Can Be Stressful. Here Is How to Ask for Help.
Julie Edgar, AAA 1-B
| 4 min read
You shouldn’t set yourself on fire to keep somebody else warm.
Yet, that is what some unpaid caregivers do – sacrifice their health and well-being to meet the needs of a loved one.
Without adequate sleep, daily exercise and a healthy diet, it is easy to flame out. That is especially true if you’re caring for a loved one. You’ll need to rest, eat a balanced diet and work in some physical activity every day.
Easier said than done, of course, as many caregivers barely have time to prepare a nutritious meal or get in their daily step count. The burden of caring for someone else, especially if the person requires constant supervision, may lead to clinical depression, feelings of anxiety and guilt, overeating, insomnia, and social withdrawal.
According to the Family Caregiver Alliance, in 2020, 53 million Americans provided unpaid care to an adult. More than 20% of them reported their own health to be fair to poor. Nearly 60% of them have symptoms of clinical depression, and they use prescription drugs for anxiety and depression more than others in their age group.
The reluctance to ask for help – or accept an offer of help – is the biggest obstacle caregivers need to overcome.
Jeannine Roach, manager of Health Promotion at the Area Agency on Aging 1-B (AAA 1-B), says caregivers need to learn the art of asking for what they need with assertiveness. It’s one of the skills caregivers take away from the Powerful Tools for Caregivers workshop offered by AAA 1-B.
“Have a specific list of things that need doing to make it easier when people offer help,” she says. “For example, you could say, ‘It would be helpful if you could sit with Dad while I go to book club,’ or ‘It would be helpful if you could drop off a meal once a week or pick up the kids from practice on Tuesdays.’ People want to help, but sometimes they don’t know how.”
If you don’t want to ask or can’t think of someone you’d want to ask, consider respite care. That could be out of the house, in an adult day program, or in the home with the help of an aide. AAA 1-B supports about a dozen adult day programs in the six-county region of Livingston, Macomb, Monroe, Oakland, St. Clair and Washtenaw counties and offers other respite opportunities in the home. Call 800-852-7795 to learn more.
If you live outside of the AAA 1-B’s service region, you can find the Area Agency on Aging that serves your area by visiting Eldercare Locator.
Caregivers might also look into hiring an aide to come into the home a few hours a week.
Remember that it is possible and permissible to take care of yourself while you meet the needs of a loved one.
Ways caregivers can manage stress
A few techniques for reducing stress:
- Talk to a friend.
- Read a book or watch a movie.
- Pray, meditate, engage in yoga or tai chi.
- Take a bath.
- Listen to music.
- Walk around the block.
- Find a support group, or a mental health counselor. You can participate virtually if you can’t leave the house.
AAA 1-B offers a variety of workshops designed to help family caregivers on their journey:
- Powerful Tools for Caregivers is a popular, 6-week workshop that is offered in-person and online about six times per year. It offers techniques to relax and provides a safe forum to talk to other caregivers.
- Caregiver Survival is a 2-hour workshop led by dementia caregiving expert Jill Gafner Livingston. She offers practical tips for thriving as caregivers.
- Caregiver Coaching is a program that pairs a family caregiver with a trained coach who can offer resources and a listening ear. Partners meet whenever they choose, typically by phone or virtually.
Call 833-262-2200 or email [email protected] for more information.
This content is provided by the Area Agency on Aging 1-B, a nonprofit that serves older adults and family caregivers in Livingston, Macomb, Monroe, Oakland, St. Clair and Washtenaw counties. We provide services, programs and resources that are designed to help seniors age safely and independently. Call us at 800-852-7795 to get connected.
Opinions expressed in this blog belong solely to the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions or beliefs of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan or its subsidiaries and affiliates.