Published on November 06, 2020

Caring for the Caregiver: Advice, Support to Lift Your Spirit, Fill Your Bucket

holding hands

You would do just about anything for the ones you love. You want to share in their good times and support them when things get tough. For the more than 60 million Americans who act as a family member’s caregiver, they have selflessly answered that call.

The dedication and energy to support a loved one in need can take a toll on a family caregiver’s physical, mental and spiritual health.

During National Family Caregiver’s Month, we’re honoring the individuals who are by their loved one’s side for every appointment, consultation, therapy session and so much more. We’re providing tips, guidance and advice so that you know you are never alone. We’ll be right here by you – supporting you as we all work together to help your loved one.

This month, we spoke with Kathleen Crowley, licensed social worker and clinical supervisor of Adventist HealthCare’s Employee Assistance Program, on why taking a moment to care for yourself goes a long way in supporting your loved one.

Recognizing the signs of caregiver fatigue

Caring for a loved one is hard work. When you continually put someone’s needs before your own, it can lead to stress, fatigue and even physical health issues. It’s important to recognize when you need to take a break and find relief.

“We never let our phone batteries get down to 10% because it’s just too stressful. Caregivers need to take the same approach. When you recognize that your battery is starting to drain, you can take the steps you need to and recharge,” explains Kathleen.

Common signs of caregiver burnout can include:

  • Decreased concentration
  • Fatigue
  • Physical symptoms (aches, pains)
  • Loss of faith/loss of self
  • Feelings of isolation or loneliness
  • Decreased performance
  • Short temper
  • Relationships with others affected

When you feel overwhelmed, take time to assess what will help you feel supported.

“There are many different strategies and supports available to family caregivers, which allows caregivers to pick what speaks to them,” says Kathleen.

The restorative power of hobbies

Hobbies give you more than a break from the day: They help boost feel good chemicals in the brain, like serotonin or endorphins, which can boost your mood and reduce stress.

Stress-reducing activities and hobbies include:

  • Walking
  • Knitting
  • Painting
  • Reading
  • Journaling
  • Gardening
  • Listening to or playing music
  • Dancing
  • Coloring
  • Baking or cooking

Respite care in COVID

The COVID-19 pandemic has made caring for a loved one, and finding respite care and support when needed, more difficult. Many – if not all – loved ones who need a family caregiver are also at high risk of developing complications from COVID-19. That means family members outside the immediate household and even volunteers are no longer able to come in to help. Fortunately, there are still ways to offer and find help.

“There has been, dare I say, some beauty in COVID because things have become more accessible through technology that people may not have been able to access before,” says Kathleen.

Counseling appointments and support group sessions are all online, making it much easier to take time from your day join. Respite care can also still be found. Groceries can be delivered to your front porch. Loved ones can still organize a meal train for your family. A friend can pick up a load of laundry and do it at their house.

Remember, it’s okay to ask for help when you need it. Kathleen reminds that, “You don’t have to feel like you have to do everything.” Finding simple things like setting up a meal or grocery delivery can help decrease any stress you may be feeling.

Discover how Adventist HealthCare can support your mental wellness and how we’re keeping you and your loved ones safe during COVID-19.

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