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Caring for the Caregiver
Tips to Identify and Alleviate Caregiver Stress

Assuming the role as a Caregiver is a selfless act requiring commitment and patience, at times forcing individuals to sacrifice their own wants and needs. Today, there are an estimated 23.5 million Americans actively caring for elderly loved ones who have chronic illnesses. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration on Aging, while some elders receive formal care and support from healthcare organizations, over 60 percent are cared for by family members.

The majority of Caregivers are baby-boomers, ages 46-64, who are managing the lives of their aging family members while maintaining jobs, raising children, and handling the day-to-day responsibilities of their own active lives. The stress from managing this level of responsibility can lead to physical illness, frustration, depression and overall burnout. Over time, the Caregiver may begin to disregard their own health.

"Caregivers have a tendency to feel guilty when focusing on themselves or enjoying their own lives and consequently center all their attention on the needs of their loved one,” said Lynda Lopez, Mercy LIFE (Living Independently for Elders) social services manager. “In most cases, family and friends are the first to recognize the emotional and/or physical changes in the Caregiver. The Caregiver is the last to recognize change in themselves.”

What are some key signs that the Caregiver needs care?

"Caregivers who ignore their own physical and emotional needs make-up the majority of unintentional elder neglect and abuse cases,” adds Dr. Donna Raziano, Mercy LIFE associate chief medical officer.

Caring for the Caregiver
To alleviate stress and burnout, here are some techniques to help Caregivers replenish themselves physically, emotionally, and mentally:

Building awareness about signs of Caregiver stress is the first step in taking action towards avoiding potential negative situations. Community-based organizations like Mercy LIFE, offer many resources such as in-home medical care, respite care, adult day services and support programs, to assist Caregivers as they continue to provide care to their elderly loved ones.

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