A Holiday Care Package for Caregivers

12/14/2016 04:02 pm ET

During the holidays, it’s easier than ever to get swept up in the hustle and bustle, and not take time to care for ourselves.

For the over 43 million Americans who serve as unpaid caregivers for loved ones young and old, the word “care” takes on a whole new meaning. In most cases, caregiving is a labor of love, however, the demands are undeniable. Being a caregiver opens up a whole new set of tasks and commitments. If the stress of caregiving is left unchecked, it can take a serious toll on the health and wellbeing of the caregiver.

Community Health Charities partners with many trusted health charities that offer resources, support and guidance for caregivers. Here’s our gift to you – a special “care” package for caregivers.

Managing Caregiver Stress

The job of caregiving requires an incredible amount of patience and understanding. Caregivers often try to take on everything themselves, which can cause increased stress. If ignored, stress will often lead to burnout, making it impossible to continue caring for your loved one. If you are feeling overwhelmed, this Caregiver Stress Check and stress management tips from the Alzheimer’s Association can determine if your own health is at risk. Other resources include the ALS Association, which offers tips for coping with caregiver burnout and The Arthritis Foundation which offers solutions for nine common caregiving challenges, including exhaustion and stress.

Another great source is the Caregiver Action Network, which provides education, peer support and resources to family caregivers across the nation free of charge. Their online Family Caregiver Toolbox includes information about caregiver depression and many other aspects of caregiving.

Getting Through the Holidays

The holidays can be an especially difficult time for caregivers. During this busy season, it can be tempting to increase unhealthy behaviors such as drinking more alcohol, getting less sleep and not exercising. The emotional impact of the holidays or feelings of grief regarding lost holiday traditions may play a role as well. The AARP offers 10 holiday tips to help caregivers get through the holidays with more joy and less stress. The National Alliance on Mental Illness also offers tips for managing the holiday blues.

Accepting Help

Be prepared when someone asks “What can I do to help?” with online tools including the Alzheimer’s Association Care Team Calendar, a free tool for organizing family and friends who want to help with caregiving. Helpers can sign up for specific tasks, such as preparing meals, providing rides or running errands.

Caregivers may also create a free personal website with CaringBridge which allows you to quickly share updates about your loved one’s health journey. It also allows you to activate your community and coordinate help.

Balancing Caregiving and Work

If you are juggling a job while caring for a loved one, you are not alone. Nearly 42 percent of U.S. workers have cared for an aging family member or friend in the last five years, according to the AARP. The average age of caregivers is 49 – a peak year for earnings and career achievement. The dual responsibilities of caregiving and working can be extremely stressful. As a working caregiver, you need information and support as much as the person you are caring for. If you sacrifice your own health and wellbeing, you risk not being able to effectively care for your loved one and facing challenges in other areas of your life. That’s why it’s important to take advantage of the resources available to you. CaringBridge shares these tips for keeping your job while caregiving and facts about the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

Caring for Caregivers

Our nation’s caregivers make tremendous contributions every day. You can offer your support by reaching out to someone who cares for a sick child or an aging parent; just ask how you can help with meals or other support. Send a note of encouragement or drop off a gift card. To help caregiving parents whose children are receiving cancer treatments at St. Jude, consider supporting Every Kid Deserves, or search Community Health Charities’ list of member charities to find even more resources.

Throughout the holiday season and all year long, let’s remember to support our caregivers whose unseen acts of love support so many others.

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