According to a survey by AARP and the National Alliance for Caregiving, about 34 million Americans will serve as unpaid family caregivers each year. These caregivers spend anywhere from 20 to 60 hours per week performing their caregiving duties. Many caregivers also work or go to school. All of these caregivers will feel stress. Some end up feeling trapped, and may even develop their own health problems. Others will find that caring for another person makes them feel better. They may feel that they are meeting challenges and helping to keep their family member safe and healthy. What are these people doing differently? Are there secrets to be learned from the way these caregivers approach their work?
The simple act of staying positive can have a major impact on emotional and physical health. Successful caregivers look on the bright side of their daily challenges. They try to find humor in their work, show compassion and take pride in what they are doing.
Caregivers have a lot to keep track of—medications, doctor’s appointments, bills, schedules, and so on. Successful caregivers know that having a system can lessen stress and free up time for things they enjoy. These caregivers:
Successful caregivers know that they have an important job. They are part of their loved one’s health care team. They learn about their family member’s medical condition. These caregivers make sure their family member gets regular check-ups and sees specialists when necessary. They look out for possible side effects from medications, and they alert health care workers of any changes they notice at home.
Successful caregivers know that caring for themselves is another part of the job. They find time to do things they enjoy, whether it’s a night out with friends or a night in with a good book. They talk to their boss about changing their work schedule. They combat stress with meditation, exercise, and healthy eating. They also get regular check-ups to ensure their health is on track. And, perhaps most importantly, they ask for help when they need to—enlisting family, friends, care professionals and support services. All of these things can give caregivers a sense of accomplishment and let them feel the emotional rewards and lasting benefits of caring for another.
VNSNY CHOICE Editorial Team