Caregivers: How to Reach Out for Help
Caregivers are those who help to take care of the needs of another. This can be taking care of children, the elderly, or someone with a chronic illness or disability. A caregiver may be someone who is taking care of their parent, sibling, grandparent, relative, or friend, or a professional who is hired to care for someone.
Regardless of whether the nature of the relationship is professional or personal, caregivers provide assistance in a wide range of tasks and activities, such as:
- Managing medical needs, transporting to medical appointments, asking questions, and ensuring compliance with medical recommendations and prescriptions
- Cooking, feeding, grocery shopping
- Cleaning the home and taking care of other housework, such as laundry
- Bathing and getting dressed
- Ensuring medication is taken on time, putting in pharmacy requests, picking up as needed
There are many benefits to helping in this way. Research has found that caregivers generally experience a sense of fulfillment and satisfaction in being useful. There are however times that caregivers themselves need help. In addition to the emotional benefits of caring for others, caregivers are found to be at an increased risk for stress, anxiety, depression, and even lowered immune function.
The Risks of Being a Caregiver
As caregivers are at risk of developing emotional, psychological, and physical conditions, it is important that action is taken to ensure one’s wellbeing while providing for the needs of others. Though it may be difficult to pay attention to one’s own needs while caring for the needs of others, it is important that caregivers recognize when they are in need of help.
Some common signs in caregivers who are stressed or may be in need of help include:
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Feeling sad, hopeless, or experiencing a lack of interest in activities that were once enjoyed
- Increased irritability or feeling angry
- Not being able to make time for one’s own medical appointments or other self-care needs
- Changes in eating and sleeping habits or patterns
When noticing the above-mentioned feelings or behaviors, it is important that caregivers take action to maintain their mental and physical wellness, and that they ask for help.
Asking for Help
Whether you are a professional caregiver, or you are taking care of family or friends, it is important to know that you don’t have to do it all by yourself. Below are some options to explore as you recognize the need for more help.
- Are there other professional services that can be hired for help?
- Are there any volunteers or organizations that can offer help? There may be federal, state, or local resources that can help, for instance the Administration for Community Living
- Are there other family members, friends, neighbors, or even colleagues who can help?
- Have I made an appointment with my own doctor or counselor to discuss the feelings that I am experiencing?
- Are there online or in-person support groups that I can join?
- Is there a spiritual or faith-based organization that I can reach out to for support or guidance?
While some of the options listed here may be able to provide help with the physical and timely needs that may ease the level of responsibility that is on the caregiver, other options may help with the emotional and psychological needs of the caregiver. The mental, physical, and emotional wellbeing of the caregiver are all equally important and it is important to balance these needs in order to continue being able to care for others. Help is available if the stress of caregiving is impacting the overall wellness of the caregiver.