Why Caregivers Should Accept Help
1 in 5 Americans are currently serving as a caregiver, providing help to ill or disabled persons almost all, every day. This leaves them with very little time for much else, including socialization and leisure. This is one of the primary reasons why caregivers report much higher stress levels than the general population. Many caregivers feel overwhelmed by the amount of care a person needs, and they often take it upon themselves to provide all of it. However, this may lead to burnout and reduced quality of care. As such, caregivers need to welcome help, and here are some reasons why:
Caregivers tend to carry unnecessary guilt.
You may think that you’re not doing enough and you may even feel guilty for having your own needs, but know that caregiving is a courageous job. While it’s normal to feel guilt –especially when you see how much the person you’re caring for is struggling –you must also acknowledge and express these feelings.
Call up a friend and ask them if they could spare a few minutes to listen. Open up conversations about how you’re coping. Caregiving is as challenging as it is noble. If you’re having a hard time, then it’s okay to admit it. Although the “caregiver guilt” may still persist, speaking up about how you feel can help release pent-up negative emotions. When other family members, friends, or loved ones offer to help, it’s okay to accept it—and it’s okay to reach out to them and ask for help yourself.
One thing to remember is that a caregiver is part of a coordinated team.
You are not the sole person responsible for providing care. It's not always possible, nor is it healthy for you or for the person you’re caring for. It’s more beneficial to rely on the care team, particularly for tasks that involve more medical and technical know-how.
There are specialized healthcare professionals who are more than capable of helping you deliver care. Today, there’s a rising number of professionals taking specialized careers in nursing, such as gerontology, who have the skills to assist the elderly and their caregivers as they cope with age-specific health issues like Alzheimer’s and osteoporosis. If the person you’re caring for has disabilities and diseases that require specific care and treatments, clinical nursing specialists certified in those categories are also available.
You may be adept at being a caregiver, but in some instances such as mental health distress and episodes, you need psychotherapy and counseling experts. There’s only so much you can do for the person under your care and there really are cases where professionals must be called in.
Caregiving can be physically, emotionally, and mentally demanding.
It’s important to take care of yourself. Most caregivers find it hard to compartmentalize, and lots of them use their lack of time as an excuse to neglect self-care. But studies show that setting even five minutes in a day can already help caregivers get a sense of calm and balance.
Carve out some time to focus on your own needs, even if for just a while. Self-care activities are more sustainable when they’re integrated into everyday tasks. Take eating healthy or taking short walks in nature, for example, they’re simple but they’re just as effective. You can even reach out to support groups like the National Alliance for Mental Illness in moments of crisis. These groups connect you to individuals who are going through similar experiences, making you feel part of a greater community of caregivers.
Caregiving isn’t a one-person job, and accepting help isn’t a sign of weakness either. Accepting help is one of the best things you can do for yourself and for the person you’re caring for.
Post Author, Caregiver Wellness Retreat, Kimma Stark
For a list of National and resources local to the Santa Fe, Houston, and Calgary areas please visit our links page.
Listen to our Podcast episode with our friend Ruth Dennis. Ruth was a caregiver, and author of Mindful Dementia Care and in our discussion she offers her key caregiver tips. From a simple calming breath to learning to forgive yourself.