Are you responsible for someone else's health?
If you're caring for an aging parent, an ill spouse, a child with special needs, or another loved one faced with a health issue, you know how challenging a caregiver's responsibilities can be. As a caregiver, you spend much of your time focused on your patient’s needs, but it's important to make self-care a priority as well. As a recent New York Times article explains, “One study found that those who experienced mental or emotional stress while caring for a disabled spouse were 63 percent more likely to die within four years than non-caregivers who were also tracked.
Another study found that long-term caregivers have disrupted immune systems even three years after their caregiving roles have ended. And caregivers of patients with long I.C.U. stays have high levels of depressive symptoms that can last for more than a year.”
To avoid those outcomes, pay close attention to your own mental and physical health.
Here are a few ways to lower your stress level:
Have a plan.
Make sure you have up-to-date information on your patient’s prognosis and healthcare needs, now and in the future. If a doctor expects you to provide follow-up treatments at home, such as giving injections, ask for training so you can do them properly. Better Health Advisors accompanies clients to doctor’s appointments, to make sure you ask the right questions and get the instructions you need.
If you need help, ask for it.
Don’t feel guilty if you can’t do everything yourself. Acknowledge that you are in a difficult situation, and be willing to accept help from others. Reach out to friends and family members and let them know how they can lighten your load.
Connect with others.
Expand your social circle by joining support groups locally and/or online. Check in regularly with other caregivers who understand what you’re going through and can share what they’ve learned. If you experience depression or anxiety, talk to a therapist.
Make time for your own needs.
Taking time for yourself isn’t selfish—it’s what enables you to keep going. Be sure you’re eating right, getting enough sleep, and exercising regularly. Don’t give up on your social life, because spending time with friends is good for your mental health and can help lower your stress level. If you haven’t been paying attention to your own healthcare needs and you want to get things back on track, we can help.
If you feel stressed and overwhelmed, you don’t have to go through this alone.
For help, contact Better Health Advisors. We can help manage every step of the healthcare process, from connecting you with the best doctors to handling health insurance issues.