You’ve reached the stage in life when you’re ready to spend more
time with your spouse or grandchildren. Suddenly, life throws
you a curveball – one of your parents has had a stroke and needs
around-the-clock care. If this type of situation hasn’t happened to
you personally, you probably know someone affected.
As many as 65 million Americans are caregivers. Whether it’s
caring for a loved one with disabilities, or an elderly relative with
dementia, Alzheimer’s disease or a debilitating illness, caregiving
can be stressful and emotionally draining. But there are ways to
handle these responsibilities and take care of your own needs.
“Minimize stress by communicating regularly with family
members about mom or dad’s needs,” says Sallie Justice, a
caregiver trainer with the Area Agency on Aging 1-B in Southfield.
“Be realistic about the help you need, and don’t be afraid to ask
for help. It’s okay not to have all the answers.”
You can also find help outside the family. In addition to family
caregiver training, the Area Agency on Aging can refer you to
in-home respite care services and personal care aides.
“Trained caregivers can attend to your parent’s needs for a few
hours each week,” she says. “That gives you a chance to take care
of errands or other business.”
Because caregivers spend an average of 21 hours per week helping
a relative, they often have difficulty maintaining their own health.
Sallie says many caregivers have high blood pressure, depression
or other chronic conditions.
“Don’t become isolated – stay connected with family and friends,”
she says. “Find at least an hour each day to do something you
enjoy. You could meet a friend for lunch, read a good book or go
for a walk.”
For more caregiving tips and resources, visit these websites:
National Association of Area Agencies on Aging
National Family Caregivers Association
Click on Aging
Coping with Caregiving
Need a breather? Try this exercise.
Deep-breathing exercises are great for
relieving stress. Set aside 10 to 20 minutes a
day to follow these simple steps and relax:
Sit comfortably with your back straight.
Breathe deeply through your nose and
from your abdomen.
Exhale through your mouth, pushing
out as much air as you can while
contracting your abdominal muscles.
Continue to breathe in through your
nose and out through your mouth. Try
to inhale enough so that your lower
abdomen rises and falls. Count slowly
as you exhale.