If you feel less like a person these days and more like a sliver of your former self trapped between layers of obligation, join the club.
According to estimates from the National Alliance for Caregiving (and reported on by the APA), 65.7 million Americans (or 29% of the adult US population) served as family caregivers for an ill or disabled relative. And that number is rising. The APA reports that two-thirds of the US public expects to find themselves in the role of caregiver in the not-too-distant future.
It should come as no surprise, then, that given the burden of responsibility (and all the cumulative stress) caregivers are at a serious risk of putting their own health in jeopardy.
Are You Putting Your Health Last?
The Wall Street Journal reported (“The Hidden Costs of Caregiving”) at the end of last year that for working women aged 50 and older, “20% of caregivers report just fair or poor health, more than double the number of non-caregivers.” Some of the most common chronic health conditions brought reported by caregivers? Diabetes, hypertension, and high cholesterol.
So what can you do? The nonprofit helpguide.org offers strategies for caregivers to maintain your physical, mental, and emotional help—as well as a host of helpful resources worth checking out.
Prevent Burnout—Here’s How
Here are just a few things helpguide.org suggests doing to prevent caregiver burnout:
- Incorporate activities that give you pleasure even when you don’t really feel like it. Listen to music, work in the garden, engage in a hobby…whatever it is that you enjoy.
- Eat balanced meals to nurture your body. Find time to exercise even if it’s a short walk everyday. Do the best you can to sleep at least 7 hours a night.
- Laughter really is the best medicine. Buy a light-hearted book or rent a comedy. Whenever you can, try to find some humor in everyday situations.
- Keep a journal. Write down your thoughts and feelings. This helps provide perspective on your situation and serves as an important release for your emotions.
Read more strategies.
You may think it’s not worth putting yourself first—but when someone is depending on you, they need you to be at your best.