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Why Is Self-Care So Important for Caregivers

Why Is Self-Care So Important for Caregivers?

July 24, 2023 • | Law Office of Zachary D Kamykowski, PLLC
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, 59% of Alzheimer’s caregivers and 41% of non-Alzheimer’s caregivers report their emotional stress as high or very high.

Being a caregiver is a role that demands immense emotional strength, patience, and resilience. It involves caring for a loved one, often with complex health challenges, which can be both rewarding and draining. One such caregiver has created a sanctuary in her basement, complete with a recliner, lamp, end table, and book. This is her haven, her place to decompress when the demands of caring for her 83-year-old mother with dementia become overwhelming. This small act of self-care is a testament to the importance of caregivers taking time to care for themselves.

In the United States, over 11 million caregivers provide unpaid care for loved ones with dementia, and millions more care for parents or aging loved ones with other health challenges. According to a recent article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, "As millions of Americans care for aging loved ones, 'self-care is really important,'" approximately 35% of Alzheimer's caregivers and 19% of non-Alzheimer's caregivers report declines in their health due to their caregiving responsibilities.

The importance of self-care for caregivers cannot be overstated. Caregivers can start their day by waking up early to give themselves 30 minutes of "me time" in the morning. This time can be used to read, listen to music, or simply sit in silence. It's a small window of time dedicated solely to their well-being, a respite from their caregiving duties.

Connecting with others is another form of self-care. Sharing their stories publicly, participating in conferences and webinars, and joining support groups can provide comfort and a sense of community. It's a reminder that they are not alone in their journey.

Academic research increasingly focuses on caregivers, recognizing the need for support interventions that benefit caregivers and patients. In Pennsylvania, a program is working with up to 100 dementia caregivers. Caregivers in this program work with a community health worker who serves as a "caregiver coach," as well as geriatricians, neurologists, behavioral health consultants, and social workers.

These professionals have received training in teaching caregivers how to navigate day-to-day stressors healthily. They guide how to approach behaviors, de-escalate situations, and, importantly, how to take time for themselves. The program also connects families with resources to ease their burden, like adult day programs, caregiver agencies, financial and legal assistance, and support groups.

The Alzheimer's Association also facilitates support groups and offers resources, some of which are specific to dementia and some that apply to caregivers for any aging loved one. They also provide a 24-hour helpline that is available in 200 different languages.

The first piece of advice for caregivers is to ask for help. This can be difficult as caregivers often feel that others don't understand what they are going through or don't want to be a burden. However, seeking help is a crucial part of self-care. It's important to remember that the patient does better when the caregiver is supported.

In conclusion, self-care is not just crucial for caregivers; it's essential. It's about recognizing and addressing their own needs while they care for others. It's about understanding that they can't pour from an empty cup. It's about acknowledging that their well-being matters. As caregivers continue to provide invaluable care for their loved ones, let's ensure they receive the care and support they need.

Reference: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (July 4, 2023) “As millions of Americans care for aging loved ones, 'self-care is really important’”

Law Office of Zachary D Kamykowski, PLLC

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