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Taking care of the caregivers

Maintaining one’s energy and vitality as a caregiver is important personally and to the family. The roles and responsibilities a person has as a caregiver can seem overwhelming. Because the demands of caregiving can continue indefinitely, it’s important to understand the warning signs of stress and how to cope with the pressures. Surveys show that many caregivers frequently feel frustrated, anxious and depressed. They often experience physical symptoms such as headaches, stomach disorders and sleeplessness. Everyone experiences their own warning signs and symptoms of stress and need to be aware of what those are since they can often indicate that the caregiver is reaching burnout.

So what are some ways for caregivers to manage stress and take care of themselves?

• Express their feelings to others like a trusted family member, friend, clergy or at a caregiver support group.

• Rid themselves of the mental attitude that they have to do it all – try to delegate tasks to other family members or to service providers in the community.

• Take care of their physical health – eating balanced meals and exercising regularly.

• Continue the social activities that are most meaningful to them – try and keep involved with groups and hobbies.

• Avoid negative ways of coping with stress i.e. over/under eating, alcohol and drug misuse.

• Encourage the care receiver to be as independent as possible.

• Take personal time – schedule time away from the caregiving duties without feeling guilty and thinking you have to do it all.

• Respite care is also an opportunity for the caregiver to get away from their duties and recharge their batteries.

Source: Cheri Burcham, Extension educator, family and consumer sciences (family life), cburcham@illinois.edu.

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