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Caregivers: Ask for Help Before You Get Sick

By Lisa M. Davila, B.S.N., M.S.
February 10, 2022

If you're the primary caregiver for a spouse or other family member, you're not alone - and you may be courting health risks for yourself.

Over 20% of adults in the U.S. provided some sort of unpaid care to another adult within the past 30 days, according to a recent survey conducted by the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System. The workload is often significant - 96% of caregivers help with bathing, feeding, dressing, shopping, laundry, and transportation; and almost 50% also assume medical or nursing duties, such as wound care and administering medications, the Family Caregiver Alliance notes.

All of those tasks may fall on top of working, completing household duties, and managing other obligations … sound familiar?

Research shows that while you are busy caring for someone else, you are likely to unknowingly neglect your own physical and mental health.

“Even people in excellent health can become exhausted by caring for a loved one,” says Brian Tremaine, M.D., medical director at Eagle’s Trace, an Erickson Senior Living community in Houston, Tex. “For people with any health issues of their own, the demands of daily caregiving can seriously affect their health and well-being.”

When was the last time you slept well?

Sleeplessness is one of the most common signs of caregiver stress, according to the Mayo Clinic. Other indications include anxiety, irritability, anger, depression, exhaustion, lack of concentration, and the development of acute and chronic health problems. These issues can worsen if the person you are caring for requires increasing levels of care, which unfortunately, is usually the case.

It can be costly to get help at home, and insurance only covers a limited amount of support in certain situations. For example, certified home health services will provide a home health aide on a short-term and/or intermittent basis under insurance, but only for people who are also receiving medically necessary skilled services from a nurse or therapist. Once skilled services are no longer needed, or when certain skills can be performed safely by a caregiver—you are on your own.

Is your loved one getting the best care?

There will come a point when you simply cannot meet your loved one’s medical needs. You may struggle to help them sit or stand, or be unable to lift them up if they take a fall.

Nonetheless, many caregivers push through, for a host of reasons. But it might be best for your loved one to transition to an environment where they can receive necessary medical care as well as additional services that promote activity and help maximize their functioning. It is likely best for your health and mental well-being, too, but many caregivers find this out too late.

“It’s important to get support in place [for caregivers] before they become too worn out to care for themselves,” Tremaine says. “I have seen caregivers appear visibly unkempt and withdrawn from their social activities, but this process can happen so gradually that they are not aware of it.”

Finding support to comfort and encourage you through the many daily challenges as a caregiver is imperative. Talk to your doctor about the resources that may be available to help.

Who can help?

Comfort and quality care are just a couple of the hallmarks that make Erickson Senior Living communities the perfect independent living choice for seniors. To learn more about the specialized senior health care we offer, find a community near you.