By Frank M. Samson
What is a Caregiver exactly? The Department of Health and Human Services defines them as “a person, either paid or voluntary, who helps an older person with the activities of daily living, health care, financial matters, guidance, companionship and social interaction. A caregiver can provide more than one aspect of care. Most often the term refers to a family member or friend who aids the older person.”
“Put on your own oxygen mask first before helping others” is something you hear each time a flight is taken. A similar concept should be used when taking care of an elderly parent or other loved one. It’s difficult enough for the caregiver to manage their personal life without the added responsibilities of providing in home care and managing various aspects of someone else’s life as well. There is proven research showing caregivers are less healthy than non-caregivers, both physically and mentally. This research is based on higher hospitalization rates, higher death rates and higher levels of depression. Additionally, those who have other responsibilities, including being a spouse, parent and/or employee are likely to deal with more everyday stress.
According to the American Medical Association, caregivers are often so concerned with caring for their relative’s needs that they lose sight of their own well-being. Below is a caregiver stress test which will help determine where the caregiver may stand:
Caregiver Stress Test
Score each item as:
2-Once or twice
In caring for a loved one, how often do you have the following experiences:
__Being tired, not sleeping enough
__Poor appetite or overeating
__Being physically exhausted
__Feeling “burned out”
__Being utterly drained of feeling
*If your score is 60 or above, the stress associated with being a caregiver is beginning to take its toll.
*If your score is 90 or above, the caregiver is living with burnout.
In my day-to-day work, I personally witness caregiver stress as a common phenomenon, but the good news is the caregiver can manage stress and improve their physical and mental health to benefit themselves, their parents and others who depend on them. Following are some options to consider:
* Exercise – The strength to handle an aging parent and exercise is a great stress reliever.
* Healthy Diet – Having three balance meals a day is a minimum necessity.
* Regular Check-ups – When caring for someone else, as a caregiver – you can not ignore the signs of your own health.
* Professional Home Care – Ongoing help from professional caregivers or just temporary relief – respite care.
* Assisted Living Homes or Communities – Safety should be the number one priority for your loved one. There are various affordable options available.
Frank M. Samson is Founder of Senior Care Authority based in Sonoma. Which provides free assistance to families finding in-home care, independent and assisted living for their loved ones. Reach him at 707.939.8744 or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. The company Web site is http://www.seniorcareauthority.com.