12 Life Skills Every Caregiver Should Master
When caregivers suffer stress and stress-related health problems, it affects their ability to provide care. Committing to new habits that put your own well-being at the top of your to-do list can help.
Poor sleep, weight loss, exhaustion, headaches and depression. These are just some of the signs of caregiver stress. According to a survey from the National Alliance for Caregiving (NAC) and AARP, caregivers say that their top unmet needs include:
- Finding time for one’s self (35%)
- Managing emotional and physical stress (29%)
- Balancing work and family responsibilities (29%)
The National Coalition of Caregivers has found that more than 65 million Americans serve as caregivers. Many of those caregivers also work full or part-time jobs. Caregivers who feel overburdened and guilty because they can only spread themselves so far will burn out and potentially develop their own serious health issues, such as heart disease, diabetes or cognitive decline.
Skills for Meeting Caregiver Needs
As a caregiver, know that you do not have to do everything on your own. People and local resources are available to help. Most importantly, take the necessary steps to lower your stress level to ensure your well-being. Otherwise, you will not be able to care for someone else effectively.
- Be patient, compassionate and flexible.
- Accept that you cannot fix everything.
- Ask for (and accept) help from family members, friends and other caregivers who can relieve you of your responsibilities on a regular basis.
- Exercise your body and mind at least 10 minutes every day.
- Seek community resources like in-home assistance, adult day-care centers and meal delivery.
- Learn to relax mentally and physically; try meditation, yoga or another technique.
- See your doctor for regular screenings and immunizations.
- Have a sense of humor.
- Get a good night’s sleep, every night.
- Eat a balanced diet to lower your risks for medical problems.
- Vent your frustrations to trusted loved ones or a support group; the website Theravive is a confidential resource for locating therapists.
- Take classes on caregiving or your loved one’s specific condition as a way to educate yourself and stay connected with other caregivers.
Learn to Recognize Your Stress
Stress is a normal part of a caregiver’s job. But, if you can incorporate the skills listed above into your routine, you will have a better chance of reigning in your stress before it takes a toll on your health. The Alzheimer’s Association offers a Caregiver Stress Check that you can use to gauge your stress level. Be sure to talk to your doctor if your stress check indicates that your health might be at risk.
What life skills have helped lower your stress as a caregiver? Please share your thoughts below.
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