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Taking Care of Yourself: Support for Caregivers

May 17, 2024

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Being a caregiver is a selfless profession, whether you’re a family caregiver or an agency professional. As the person always providing the support, it’s easy to forget that you need it too.

As a primary caregiver, you need to know how to take care of yourself and find support when you need it.

If you’re starting to feel like you’re struggling to find balance between caring for your patient and taking time for yourself, you’re not alone and there are things you can do to improve your situation.

Here is a guide on how to know if you need support, what you can do to take care of yourself, as well as some support groups and resources to look into.

How Do You Know if You Need Support?

Caregivers are notorious for forgetting about self-care. Maybe it’s because they tend to focus more on others than themselves. But no matter the reason, you need to spend time taking care of yourself.

If you’re experiencing these signs of stress and burnout, make sure you seek support and incorporate self-care into your weekly routine:

  • Feelings of helplessness and cynicism
  • Insomnia or hypersomnia
  • Chronic headaches or migraines
  • Shortness of breath
  • Persistent fatigue
  • Weaker immune system/getting sick more often
  • Changes in appetite
  • Isolation from friends and family
  • Procrastination
  • Loss of motivation
  • Anxiety surrounding work

What to Do if You’re Feeling Overwhelmed as a Caregiver?

Feeling stress surrounding work is normal to a degree. And, as rewarding as being a caregiver is, it’s not an exception.

Fortunately, there are ways to manage these overwhelming feelings and regain control of your time and emotions.

Take Care of Yourself Physically

A healthy body equals a healthy mind. From creating new cells to expelling stress-related toxins, keeping your body healthy is essential.

Start by adjusting your diet and getting a good mix of all your necessary macros. That means a healthy mix of proteins, fats, and carbs. Alongside eating healthier, stay hydrated by drinking enough water. Combine it with a handful of fruit every day to make the most of all those essential nutrients.

Next, make regular exercise a part of your routine. Exercise lowers our adrenaline and cortisol levels, reducing stress and anxiety.

Lastly, make sure you get enough rest. When you don’t get enough sleep, your body creates more stress hormones, which then further disrupts your sleep. It’s a nasty feedback loop that you need to break. Work on your sleep hygiene and try to get a minimum of 7 hours of sleep every night.

Prioritize Your Mental Health

Your mental health is just as important as your physical health. So, put time aside to focus on your mental well-being and work on nurturing a positive and grateful mindset. As an example, journaling is a great way to reduce stress and reflect on the many positive aspects of being a caregiver.

It’s also important to set goals for yourself. Make long and short-term plans to build the life, social circle, and career you want.

Reach out for Support or Join a Caregiver Support Group

Reaching out for support is the most important tip for caring for yourself. Caregivers are human, which means you can’t take on everything by yourself. You need help during tough times just like anyone else.

Reach out to your friends and family and take advantage of support groups for caregivers.

Support groups are invaluable resources for caregivers as they offer both practical advice and emotional support. Because other caregivers intrinsically understand what you’re going through, they can empathize in ways that even the most well-meaning friends and family might be unable to.

Online Caregiver Support Groups

Online caregiver support groups are usually informal and unmoderated. These support groups are created by other caregivers who want to share information and connect with other people in the industry and they’re mostly available on social media platforms. Facebook is a very popular option and you’ll find dozens of groups to join.

Online support groups are a great option for on-the-go caregiver support. You can access resources from the comfort of your home, a huge benefit for caregivers who don’t have the time to travel for in-person meetups.

If you are looking for an online support group, here are some to consider:

Family Caregiver Alliance

Family Caregiver Alliance is an online caregiver support group dedicated to caregivers who look after family members. The support group gives every member a CareNav dashboard, where you can access dozens of resources related to caring for yourself and your charge.

The caregiver support group also connects caregivers through online meetups, events, and classes.

Working Daughter

Working Daughter is dedicated to women balancing multiple duties alongside caregiving, like children and work. The support group prides itself on providing both emotional and practical advice for all its members.

It provides online consulting and counseling, as well as other helpful resources like finding caregiver-friendly part-time jobs and caregiver reading lists. There is also a private Facebook group where caregivers can chat and find instant support.

Caregivers Connect

Caregivers Connect is a private Facebook group with more than six thousand members. The group is very popular and active, with caregiver support coordinators monitoring and helping where necessary.

The group is open to all types of caregivers, whether you’re looking after a family member or a stranger. People in jobs adjacent to the caregiving industry are also welcome to join.

In the group, people post about their daily lives and the struggles they’re dealing with, while other members offer support and advice.

Memory People

Memory People is another Facebook caregiver support group with a large and active community. Where Caregivers Connect is a general caregiver Facebook group, Memory People is specifically for caregivers caring for patients with Alzheimer’s, dementia, and other memory impairment conditions.

The support group focuses slightly more on the practical side of being a caregiver. Members often share information and resources among one another, and offer advice to those in need.

That being said, members are more than welcome to share stories. The community is very supportive and offers comfort without reservation.

Mental Health America

Mental Health America aims to improve the mental health of caregivers around the country. The group has a lot of free resources, from guides on coping with stress to resources for helping patients with mental health disorders.

Mental Health America also has a crisis hotline in case caregivers need immediate emotional support or advice.

In-Person Caregiver Support Groups in Pennsylvania

In-person support groups are great for caregivers who are feeling isolated. These meetups provide an opportunity to socialize and meet new people who are in similar situations so that you can support and relate with one another.

If you’re looking for a local in-person support group in Pennsylvania, here are some options to look at:

Greater Pennsylvania Alzheimer’s Association

The Greater Pennsylvania Alzheimer’s Association hosts monthly Lunch and Learn programs for people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers.

It’s especially popular among family caregivers as it provides resources and training to help increase knowledge about the disease so that caregivers can better support their loved ones.

Hope Grows Iris Respite House

Hope Grows Iris Respite House offers weekly support group meetings for caregivers. This group specializes in helping caregivers who are looking after terminal patients and struggling with grief.

Westmoreland County Area Agency on Aging

Westmoreland County Area Agency on Aging has monthly caregiver meetups to help individual caregivers who are caring for senior citizens and older family members. Other family members are also more than welcome to visit alongside the family caregiver.

Grace United Methodist Church

Care United Methodist Church is a support group for caregivers and anyone interested in Alzheimer’s Disease or other dementia-related diseases. The group meets on the first Thursday and the third Monday of each month.

Autism Collaborative Centers of Excellence (ACCE)

The ACCE is a support group that helps caregivers with charges who have Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). The center hosts support group meetups and connects individuals and families with other local resources and community groups.

UPMC Home Care and Hospice

UPMC Home Care and Hospice regularly hosts Caregiver Coffee Breaks, where local community caregivers can meet other professionals for a quick chat. The UPMC also links caregivers with other local resources and events.

Centre County Human Services

The Centre County Human Services has regular support group meetups for caregivers looking after children, disabled people, and elderly citizens.

Besides emotional support, the center also provides information on everything from affordable housing to respite care assistance.

Additional Resources for Caregivers

If you’re looking for more information on caregiving, here are some additional resources:

Conclusion

Being a caregiver, whether for a family member or a stranger, is rewarding. But caregivers need support too.

Studies have shown how access to support and caregiver resources lessen stress and depression in caregivers and improve caregivers’ quality of life.

In turn, a happier and better-equipped caregiver is more likely to provide stable and comprehensive support and care for patients.

If you are a caregiver, take advantage of caregiver support programs. There are in-person and online support groups, so you can choose the option that better suits your schedule. Meet up with caregivers who share your situation and exchange information, advice, and comfort.

If you’re interested in becoming a family caregiver, improving your skills, or simply seeking caregiver information, contact us today. We provide professional support and training so that you can provide the best level of care possible.

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