There is a large population of individuals in the United States who require extra support in the home, that are being taken care of by a non-professional (unpaid) caregivers such as family or friends instead of Home Care professionals. In fact, it is believed that 1 in 3 adults in the U.S. are acting as a non-professional caregiver and providing care for a loved one.
No matter who you are, acting as a caregiver for another is not easy. You may be in a situation where you are providing hands-on care, keeping track of the care a loved one receives, or overseeing their care choices. In each of these scenarios, you may experience the stress that comes with being in charge of the care and decisions for the well-being of your loved one.
A caregiver is defined as anyone who provides any type of care for a person in need including a spouse, child, friend, or aging relative. However, many who are actively providing non-professional care for their family members do not consider themselves a “caregiver.” In most cases the non-professional caregiver knows what care is best for the individual needing care. It is important for those acting as non-professional caregivers to recognize their status as a caregiver as well as the support available for those in their position.
Caregiving is Rewarding but Stressful
Many people find themselves in a non-professional caregiver role because they want to be there for their loved ones. However, some may not foresee the level of stress that comes with caregiving as well as the change in their relationship with their loved one and in their emotions. Non-professional caregivers commonly feel sad, frustrated, exhausted, stressed, and alone. It is important for non-professional caregivers to understand that their emotional and physical stress, commonly referred to as caregiver stress, is quite common.
The following are the main factors that contribute to caregiver stress:
- Living with the person under your care
- Balancing a job or career with caregiving
- Going through financial difficulties
- Feeling like you have no choice but to provide care
- Dealing with depression or anxiety
- Dealing with medical issues of your own
- Having children that need care
Recognizing Caregiver Stress
Caregiving is a demanding job, and many non-professional caregivers spend so much time ensuring the well-being of the loved one in their care that they often neglect their own physical, mental and emotional health. It is easy for non-professional caregivers to dismiss or not recognize that they are experiencing caregiver stress.
The following are the main signs of caregiver stress that all caregivers should be aware of:
- Constant exhaustion
- Altered sleep patterns
- Sudden weight gain or weight loss
- Lost interest in favorite hobbies or activities
- Increase in physical pain including body pain and headaches
- Constant stress
- Decrease in job performance
How Can Caregivers Combat Caregiver Stress?
Caregiver stress not only affects the caregiver, but also the one receiving the care. It is difficult for non-professional caregivers to provide adequate care while they are stressed, overworked, or exhausted. Non-professional caregivers can take actions to combat caregiver stress which will improve their emotional and physical health and allow them to provide better care.
Taking the following actions can help non-professional caregivers combat caregiver stress:
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help: Most non-professional caregivers know someone who is willing to give them a helping hand. Caregivers should not be afraid to ask for help or accept help as there is no shame in this.
- Hire a professional: Home care agencies like Assisting Hands Richmond provide respite care in which a professional caregiver will temporarily take over providing care. Respite care can allow the non-professional caregiver to take some time off.
- Provide the care you can: Many non-professional caregivers may feel the need to go above and beyond for their loved ones. However, it is better for all involved if the caregiver focuses on the care they can provide and seeks help for caregiving duties they cannot provide.
- Set realistic goals: Caregivers should create a daily routine and set goals that are realistic for what they can provide. They should also not be afraid to say no to difficult requests.
- Join a caregiver support group: Joining a support group will put non-professional caregivers in touch with others who understand their experience. These groups help non-professional caregivers realize that they are not alone.
- Stay social: Non-professional caregivers should stay connected with friends and family and take the time to see others, even if for a brief period of time. Staying connected with friends and family gives caregivers another source of emotional support.
- Focus on your health: Non-professional caregivers should take steps to take care of their own health such as eating healthy, staying hydrated, establishing a consistent sleep routine, and finding time to exercise.
Caregivers Who Have Jobs Outside the Home
Of those who act as non-professional caregivers, around 60 percent also have a job outside the home. Non-professional caregivers commonly feel stressed and overwhelmed juggling their caregiving duties with their job. If you find yourself in this position, consider taking a leave of absence from your job to focus on providing care. The Family and Medical Leave Act allows qualified non-professional caregivers to take as many as 12 weeks of unpaid leave a year to provide care.
If taking leave is not an option, plan regular time off for yourself from your job and from caregiving.
Seek Help from Assisting Hands
Taking on the duties of a caregiver is admirable and rewarding, but you shouldn’t feel like you have to do it yourself. At Assisting Hands Richmond, we offer respite care services in which our licensed, professional Caregivers take over for the non-professional caregiver to allow them some time off. Your loved one will be in the hands of our expert Caregivers who will provide quality, compassionate care.
Call Assisting Hands Richmond at (804) 533-6505 to learn more about our respite care services in Richmond, VA and the surrounding areas.