Local resources can help ease the anxiety of caring for a loved one
About one in every seven adults in the United States, or about 15%, provide unpaid care to another adult, according to a 2018 Pew Research Center analysis of data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
While the report notes that caregiving is often seen as a very meaningful activity for those providing care, it can also be physically and mentally taxing and can lead to caregiver stress.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office on Women’s Health, women are especially at risk for the harmful health effects of caregiver stress.
Caregivers provide services for another person in need, including children, aging parents, spouses or other relatives. While there are professional caregivers who are paid for taking care of people in need, there are also people who are not paid for their aid to others. The latter category is often referred to as informal caregivers or family caregivers.
Most caregivers are women, according to the National Alliance for Caregiving. Nearly three in five family caregivers have paid jobs in addition to helping maintain the quality of life for a relative.
Caregiver stress can manifest itself in many ways, according to the Office on Women’s Health. In addition to mood swings and turning to unhealthy behaviors such as smoking or drinking too much alcohol, signs and symptoms include:
- Depression or anxiety: Women who are caregivers are more likely than men to develop depression or anxiety, according to a study of people who cared for family members with Alzheimer’s disease.
- Obesity: Women caregivers gain more weight than the male counterparts, according to a study published in Preventive Medicine. The weight gain raises the caregivers’ risk of diabetes, heart disease or stroke.
- Risk of chronic disease: A study published in theJournal of Neuroimmune Pharmacologyindicates high levels of stress, combined with depression or anxiety, increases the risk of cancer, diabetes, heart disease or arthritis.
- Feeling alone, isolated or deserted by others.
- Sleeping too little or too much.
- Gaining or losing considerable weight.
- Feeling fatigued most of the time.
- Losing interest in activities that were once enjoyable.
- Having frequent headaches or body aches.
Taking steps to relieve caregiver stress not only benefits caregivers’ health, it also helps them take better care of their loved one.
Some tips to manage or prevent caregiver stress include:
Learn more about caregiving: Check with your local hospital to see if they offer classes that teach how to care for someone. The Tri-County Office on Aging offers a Creating Confidence Caregivers sessions. Check their website listed below for information.
Find caregiving resources in your community: The Michigan Aging and Adult Services Agency in Lansing has compiled a guide to services for older adults, which lists resources that can help. That guide can be found at michigan.gov/documents/osa/A_Guide_to_Services_for_Older_Adults_638763_7.pdf.
Ask for and accept help: Ask another family member to take over the caregiver duties for an afternoon while the family caregiver can run errands or other tasks. Ask a friend or family member to grocery shop for you, or grocery stores will deliver to you, including Kroger, Meijer and Target (via Shipt).
Find a support group: Among agencies and associations in the Greater Lansing area are the Alzheimer’s Association, Brain Injury Association Support Group, Caregiver Support Group in Holt and the Michigan State University Kinship Care Resource Center in East Lansing.
If you have a paid job in addition to caring for another person and feel overwhelmed, consider taking a hiatus from your job. The federal Family and Medical Leave Act enables eligible employees to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave every year to care for relatives.
Resources in the Lansing area:
Tri-County Office on Aging
5303 S. Cedar St., Lansing
Aging and Adult Services Agency
333 S. Grand Ave., fourth floor, Lansing
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