Out of the 44 million Americans who are currently providing (unpaid) care for another adult, about 20 million are providing care for a parent or in-law. Without training (technical, physical, emotional or otherwise), this often-overwhelmed group provides an estimated 80 percent of long-term care in the United States, according to the Family Caregiver Alliance (FCA).
Most caregivers, studies say, take care of their aging parents with little or no support, and it s not unusual for their own physical and mental health to pay the price. In fact, according to FCA, studies have found that a primary reason why a caregiver may finally decide to admit a relative to a long-term care facility is because their own health is failing. Still, more than one-third of caregivers continue to provide intense care to others while suffering from poor health themselves.
Now more than ever, as technology expands to provide increasing possibilities in home care, and hospital stays are increasingly limited, children are the primary caregivers for their aging parents.
Caregivers Emotional and Physical Health Suffers
Caring for an aging parent is an incredibly taxing experience, both physically and mentally. And, while putting all of their energy into caring for an aging loved one, caregivers often neglect to take care of themselves. From an emotional perspective, this results in depression, stress, anxiety and other mental health effects. According to FCA:
- Caregivers commonly have higher levels of depressive symptoms and mental health problems than non-caregivers.
- Between 40 percent and 70 percent of caregivers have clinically significant symptoms of depression (one-quarter to one-half of whom meet the diagnostic criteria for major depression).
- Caregiving may result in a loss of self-identity, lower self-esteem and constant worry.
- 22 percent of caregivers report feeling exhausted when they go to bed.
- 16 percent of caregivers feel emotionally strained.
Caring for an aging loved one is not only taxing emotionally, it is physically difficult as well. According to FCA:
- Caregivers are more likely to suffer from acid reflux, headaches, obesity and pain, and are at an increased risk of serious illness, compared to non-caregivers.
- 45 percent of caregivers reported chronic health conditions (such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes and arthritis) compared with 24 percent of non-caregivers.
- Caregivers have a lower immune response, which increases the risk of infection and cancer.
- Caregivers neglect to take care of themselves. About six in 10 caregivers reported that their eating and exercising habits worsened when they began providing care.
How to Take Care of Yourself While Caring for an Aging Parent
If you neglect to take care of yourself while in a caregiver role, your physical and mental health is at risk (and, therefore, so is the health of your parent). And while it may be difficult to think about yourself during this rough time, dealing with your own emotions will help you to be a better caregiver, plus is essential to protecting your own sanity.
If you are currently caring for an aging parent, or know someone who is, The Sedona Method can help you to release any negative emotions you may be holding on to -- from anger and anxiety to guilt and grief. The Sedona Method is a simple, scientifically proven, system that consists of a series of questions. Upon going through the questions, you will tap your natural ability to let go of any unwanted feeling and receive immediate relief.
The noise of your mind will subside, and your heart will feel more open and healed. Meanwhile, you will feel more alive and cared for, and be able to care for your aging parent with increased confidence. The following tips, which work in combination with The Sedona Method, will help to further support you while you support your loved ones.
- Get support. Resist the urge to withdraw from friends and family. Instead, seek out their support, call up just to talk and gratefully accept any help that is offered. You can also join a support group for caregivers in your area.
- Realize no one is perfect. It s common to feel guilt when taking care of an aging parent, either because you feel you can t do enough, feel you shouldn't have any enjoyment, or feel guilty about your own feelings of anger, stress or exhaustion. Realize that you are doing all you can, and use The Sedona Method to release any negative feelings of guilt.
- It s OK to say no.It s OK, and probably necessary, to say no to obligations you just don t have time for.
- Nurture yourself. You need all the strength you can get during this time, so make sure you get enough sleep, eat healthy meals and exercise to support yourself physically. You should also take some breaks for yourself, allow yourself to laugh from time to time and maintain social connections outside of care giving to help nurture your emotional side.