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Caregivers Also Need to Care for Themselves

Taking care of a loved one who needs your assistance can be a very rewarding and fulfilling experience. Yet, being a caregiver can also be stressful and quickly take its toll on the person providing the care. In today’s world, caregiver stress is becoming more common, especially as our population ages – more than 65 million Americans provide care to a loved one, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Ironically, people who experience the worst cases of caregiver stress are the most vulnerable to changes in their own health. Many times, a caregiver is so focused on the health of their loved one that they overlook, or even ignore signs that their own health and well-being are suffering. It’s vitally important that those giving care to a loved one understand the risks and watch for the emotional, physical and behavioral signs of caregiver stress. Many of these signs are similar to those of depression including: anger, sadness, mood swings, chronic fatigue, tension headaches, weight loss/gain, withdrawing from relationships and drug/alcohol use. As a widespread problem, many medical resources are available online. In addition, caregivers should consult with a qualified healthcare professional to help reduce the burden and learn methods for coping with caregiver stress.

Becky Housman, RN and Regional Manager for Kingston HealthCare explains how caregiver stress affects many families prior to coming to Kingston. “Many times, the adult children of a caregiver fail to see the stress that their parent is experiencing while caring for their spouse, because mom or dad doesn’t want them to know. All family members should be aware of the signs, fully understand the situation and know where to seek help.”

“Being a caregiver takes a lot of energy to maintain a high level of care” says Housman. “At Kingston, we encourage caregivers to learn to care for themselves, and use the many resources and services available to them.” Housman sees many overwhelmed patient families seeking assistance from the trained care giving team at Kingston, and assures caregivers that “it’s OK to have help.”

Available at many of their facilities, Kingston offers a variety of services to help ease the burden of caregiver stress. Respite Care (less than a 30 day stay) allows a caregiver the opportunity to rest, rejuvenate and return to their own routine for a short time, while their loved one is cared for in a nurturing environment filled with compassionate professionals. For a few hours each week, Adult Day Care services provide an opportunity for the caregiver to “catch-up” with every day demands, errands, or activities they find enjoyable. Both of these services offered by Kingston provide a way for the caregiver to care for themselves through mind, body and spirit. “After all…” says Housman. “… we can’t care for others, if we can’t take care of ourselves.