EYEWITNESS NEWS (WBRE/WYOU) — When people age, the role of caregiving sometimes falls on the adult children, spouses, or partners. But what starts as assistance with daily tasks, can easily turn into a full-time responsibility due to an illness or major life event.
About 1 in 3 adults in the U.S. provides care to other adults. Oftentimes, the family is caught off guard from an unforeseen life event and unprepared for the role of an adult caregiver.
This was the case in my own family. As a caregiver, you may be so focused on your loved one that you start to neglect your own needs or resent other family members who don’t share the burden, but there are ways to cope.
No one can prepare us for the experience of caring for a sick loved one. Back in 2017, When my father, Joseph Giangiacomo suffered a severe stroke at the age of 73, life as we knew it was forever changed.
For many, roles shift overnight, from child, or spouse, to caregiver…just like it did in my own family.
Dad needs an around-the-clock car which he gets at the nursing home where he resides. Daily visits from family members help to brighten his mood.
As a new caregiver, it’s easy to become overwhelmed as the to-do list continually grows. This new chore can lead to caregiver stress…a condition characterized by emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion from caring for a loved one.
Katie Mahlmann is a clinical social worker for Geisinger. She not only works with patients who suffer from memory and cognition problems, but she also deals with individuals who are forced to adapt to taking care of a loved one. Mahlmann advises caregivers to know your limits.
“Say yes to help when people want to help accept meals from a neighbor, ask different family members to jump in, set a schedule, and make a routine out of your week so you have a better idea of how to handle situations that come up and you’re more prepared,” stated Mahlmann.
Mahlman says the more responsibility caregivers take on, the greater the risk of experiencing a decline in their own health.
Signs of caregiver stress include: Changes in sleep patterns, appetite changes, increased feelings of sadness or irritability, headaches, body aches, and pains.
If you suffer from these symptoms, Malhmann suggests counseling.
“Identifying where your emotions are coming from and identifying ways of dealing with them can be beneficial,” explained Mahlmann.
Other tips to help cope with caregiver stress include joining a support group and contacting your local area agency on aging to identify services in its caregiver support program.
The caregiver may qualify for funding, and look for free caregiver guides from AARP.