As this year draws to a close, over 41 million informal caregivers are providing nearly $470 billion in unpaid support to their family members or other loved ones. On average, these unpaid caregivers contribute between 17 and 22 hours per week of care–totaling over 1,100 hours per year.
Adding holiday hassle to significant caregiving hours, careers, and familial duties is a recipe for high stress.
“Some caregivers can be very isolated during the holidays due to their caregiving responsibilities and their inability to join activities that they used to enjoy with friends and family,” says Stephanie Paul, MSW, LCSW, Community Options Specialist at Aging Ahead in St. Louis. “On the other hand, a caregiver who still attempts to be social with friends and family can experience exhaustion and financial strain trying to maintain holiday traditions while also managing the care of a loved one.”
While family caregiving can be an incredibly rewarding experience, the intensity of the commitment can be taxing. Some of the most common challenges unpaid caregivers face are:
If you’re a caregiver, it’s important to remember that all these struggles are normal, and you’re not alone. It’s just as necessary to take care of yourself and avoid burnout as it is to take care of those around you. Here are 5 tips for how to deal with stress and avoid caregiver burnout:
Accept help from family and friends or find respite care. There are three types of formal respite care to explore:
Even a short, informal break can be helpful. “Reach out to loved ones or neighbors to provide respite while you run errands or do some holiday shopping,” Paul suggests. CaringBridge is also a great tool to reach out to your loved ones’ network for support.
Break large tasks into smaller steps that you can do one at a time. Try out these caregiver management apps to help you prioritize, make lists, and establish a daily routine. Remind yourself that it’s okay to say no to requests that are draining, such as hosting holiday parties.
Connecting with loved ones relieves stress and strengthens your support system for when you need it. If you’re looking for social connections that understand your caregiving experience, try out one of the many popular caregiver support groups.
While establishing a good sleep routine, finding time to be physically active, eating a healthy diet, and drinking plenty of water might seem impossible, they are necessary for you to stay in good health and spirits.
“Don’t neglect your own health. See a doctor regularly and discuss how caregiving is affecting you physically and mentally,” adds Paul.
In addition to those previously mentioned, there are a multitude of resources available for caregivers, from guides on specific health issues, financial questions, and legal concerns, to help locate transportation and home meal delivery services. The National Alliance for Caregivers is a great place to locate these national and local resources. The AARP also has an excellent Family Caregiving website and Family Caregivers Discussion Group on Facebook.
For caregivers in St. Louis, Aging Ahead compiled a Caregiver Resources document. “This is a great place to start for caregivers in the St. Louis area, but always remember that you’re not alone in this journey,” advises Paul. “Find somewhere you feel safe to share and where others are listening.”
As committed as you are to taking care of others, it is equally important to take care of yourself.
“Make time for yourself every day. Stretch, listen to music, breathe, read – whatever brings you increased health and comfort, even if it's only for 5 or 10 minutes,” says Paul.
At Truehold, we’re dedicated to supporting caregivers by helping your loved ones live at home safely and affordably through our Sale-Leaseback solution.
After your loved one sells their home to Truehold, they’ll be able to stay and rent it back for a fair market rate. We cover home upkeep, taxes and insurance, while your loved one is only responsible for monthly rent and utilities. They can then stay living in their home until they decide it’s right to leave—whether that be in a year, twenty years, or even just a few months.
By cashing out on their home equity, your loved ones can fund care services and quality of life improvements that could take some responsibilities off your shoulders and ease the financial, physical, and emotional toll of caregiving.
Additionally, Truehold eases the burden of maintaining your loved one’s home. As a caregiver, the last thing you should be worried about is a leaky roof, broken dishwasher, or lawn maintenance. That’s why we take care of it for you.
If you’d like to learn more, give us a call at (314) 353-9757, and one of our advisors can help determine if Truehold is a good option for your loved one.
And this holiday season, Truehold and Stephanie Paul of Aging Ahead want to remind you to “Take it easy! The holidays can have great meaning and be enjoyable for all.”