an online resource for baby boomers

Caring for Yourself When You Care for Others

Nobody said growing older is easy! The statistics for aging Americans are startling. Baby Boomers will swell the age 65+ population in the USA from 13% to 20% by 2050. Today, more than 200 million Americans are caring for an elderly family member. With increasing life expectancy, almost all of us will provide care for an aging loved one, whether it be our spouse, a sibling, or our parents.
When the demands of caregiving start to feel overwhelming, we need to pause and figure out how to take care of ourselves. If we neglect our own needs, our health suffers and we can’t be effective caregivers. Current research confirms that supportive services for caregivers can effectively reduce the burden, strain, and depression associated with caregiving, and can delay the institutionalization of loved ones.**

Here are some ways to prevent “caregiver burn-out.”

Acknowledge your own needs and make time to care for yourself. Try to take at least one or two hours each day to do a pleasurable activity that allows you to replenish your energy.

Ask for help. This is not a sign of weakness, but rather, of good health. None of us can do this job alone. Talk to siblings, other family members and friends.

Arrange for respite. Can family members living out of town occasionally come in for a weekend so the local family can either get away, or just participate in some of their chosen recreational activities? If others cannot help, or a longer respite is needed, look into local quality facilities, such as assisted living communities where the elder may stay for a week or two, receiving 24 hour care. Use the time off in ways that allow you to return refreshed and re-energized.

Look for information and ask for advice. If your elder or spouse is going through changes in health or behavior that you don’t understand or that concern you, speak to the primary care physician.

Seek the services of a Certified Geriatric Care Manager. This professional can conduct a full-individualized assessment of your relative, help develop a care plan, assist with ongoing care coordination, and help family caregivers access resources.

Consider joining a caregivers’ support group. In a well-facilitated group, you can talk about your complex feelings and learn from experienced caregivers who have faced similar challenges, can understand what you need emotionally, and can offer practical advice.

As we honor our loved ones with our care, it is important to remember to nurture ourselves and attend to our own needs. By tapping into the many resources and kinds of support available to caregivers, we are taking care of ourselves as well as our elders, and we all benefit.

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Boomers Resource Guide is a special supplement to the Senior Citizen's Guide