The day-to-day responsibilities of caregiving – running errands, planning meals and navigating medical care – can put a strain on a caregiver’s health and wellness, finances and career.
of caregivers provide 41 or more hours of care each week
have additional unpaid help
In addition to balancing hours of unpaid care…
of caregivers also hold down a day job, with over half working full-time
of caregivers say they are under financial strain1
It’s understandable, then, that 38 percent of caregivers say caregiving is emotionally stressful.1 If you’re in this position, consider these answers to common self-care questions to help you maintain your well-being while also being there for your loved one and family.
How do I create a routine that includes downtime?
Start by listing the activities, chores and errands that your care recipient needs done daily and prioritize them. Tasks such as personal hygiene, dressing, meals and medications could be high priority, for example, while miscellaneous errands and household chores may be less pressing.
Use a planner to decide when high priority tasks will be done each day to establish a routine. Plan out your week in advance so you can also decide when to schedule lower priority tasks and handle non-recurring tasks (like appointments or prescription pickups).
With these crucial times blocked off, now you should dedicate the rest to yourself. This could be time to meditate, read, take a walk – whatever helps you regroup and restore energy.
How can I prioritize my own health?
The first step to taking care of your own health is to check in with yourself – and be honest. Have you had a recent checkup? What about a healthy meal? Are you exercising? This gives you an idea of what habits need to change.
say their health is worse because of caregiving1
say caregiving has caused physical strain1
Finding time to exercise may seem like a luxury, but the benefits cannot be overstated. It can help you stave off anxiety and depression.2 It can also help fight physical strain. Even spending time each morning stretching can help reduce the chance of physical injury.3
How do I get more rest?
Exhaustion is risky for both you and your loved one. Studies show that care recipients with fatigued caregivers end up at the emergency room 23 percent more often.4 If you’re not well-rested, it may affect your ability to properly care for another person.
To get a better night’s sleep, create a sleep schedule and stick to it every night. Carve out time before bed to do calming activities, like reading or taking a bath.5
How can I balance my work life?
More than half of employed caregivers work full time while also providing care.1 Many caregivers experience changes in their work lives to accommodate their caregiving responsibilities, including:
performance or attendance1
Forty-four percent of caregivers also spend, on average, at least $5,000 of their own money annually to cover care expenses.6 In other words, they incur more costs and are forced to put money earning on the backburner.
Consider asking your employer about a flexible work schedule that lets you more easily balance caregiving duties. Most employers are willing to accommodate your request if you give them notice and continue to do good work.
Additionally, life insurance can give you peace of mind knowing there will be funds available to provide caregiving for your loved one after you’re gone.
Depending on the details of your employment, you may be entitled to protection under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).7 This law guarantees most employees up to 12 workweeks of unpaid leave each year without threat of losing their job. Talk to your HR department to learn more about these benefits.
How do I meet fellow caregivers?
In the U.S., about 43.5 million adults provide unpaid care, and that number is growing each year.1 That means there are plenty of people with similar experiences to rely on for support and guidance.
Join a support group in person or online so you can connect with others who understand what you’re going through. An online search can help you find these groups in your area. A sense of community can be a salve when you’re feeling overwhelmed and alone.
Remember, it’s not selfish to take care of yourself when you’re a family caregiver. Quite the opposite: You must take care of yourself in order to care for others.
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1 Caregiving in the U.S., National Alliance for Caregiving, 2015.
2 Depression and Anxiety: Exercise Eases Symptoms, Mayo Clinic, 2017.
3 Stretching: Focus on Flexibility, Mayo Clinic, 2017.
4 Study: Tired Family Caregivers Linked to Greater ER Visits, Higher Health Care Costs for Disabled Elders, News-Medical, 2017.
5 Sleep Tips: 6 Steps to Better Sleep, Mayo Clinic, 2017.
6 Family Caregiving in 2017: A Full-Time Unpaid Job for Many, Caring.com, 2017.
7 FMLA (Family & Medical Leave), US Department of Labor, 2018.
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ALIC44019 (exp. 3/20)