It’s important for family caregivers to care for themselves as well as their loved ones. It’s important for family caregivers to care for themselves as well as their loved ones.

Is caregiving taking its toll? You’re not alone

6 steps to regain control of your own health and wellness

If you’re balancing care for a loved one with a career and other family responsibilities, you know it can become overwhelming.

You may have even seen your own health decline, even as you try your best to stay on top of things.

“You’re not alone,” says Alistair Hicks, from Victoria’s Home Instead Senior Care. “According to Statistics Canada’s Portrait of Caregivers, 1 in 5 caregivers said their physical and mental health suffered in the last year as a result of the responsibilities of caregiving. Beyond that, more than half felt worried or anxious as a result of their caregiving responsibilities.”

The negative impact of caregiving can range from minimal to extreme, according to a survey of working family caregivers conducted by the Home Instead network:

  • Overall, 92 per cent of respondents say caregiving has added stress to their lives, including 9 per cent who say it has added an extreme amount of stress and 25 per cent who say it has added a lot more stress.
  • 65 per cent report that caregiving makes it more difficult to manage work/life balance.
  • 53 per cent say that caregiving makes it harder to take care of themselves.
  • 42 per cent report caregiving making them depressed.

Do these statistics ring true for you? Consider the following tips:

  1. Recognize the signs of stress: Are you snapping at co-workers or others? Perhaps forgetting tasks that are normally second nature? It could be stress. Identify the kinds of issues you have control over and what is best to let go. Put a plan in place to improve what you can and try to forget the rest.
  2. Guard yourself from depression: Depression can sneak up, impacting multiple areas of your life. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, contact your employer’s Human Resources department or Employee Assistance Program to explore what benefits might be available to you. Many insurance policies cover counselling. Schedule an appointment with your doctor.
  3. Take a vacation … or at least a break: A Bahamas vacation may not be in the budget or the schedule but find a way for a mini-vacation. Splurge with a stop at your favourite coffee shop, rent a movie classic or take a walk around a nearby lake. Taking a few moments to decompress can help you feel better.
  4. Learn better communication techniques: “If I had only done this,” or “I wish I’d said that,” is the lament of many working family caregivers. Effective communication can help you get what you need to stay healthy. If you need help, ask! It’s important to be proactive in communicating your challenges and needs.
  5. Take good care of yourself – sleep, diet and exercise: If there were a magic potion for family caregivers, this could be it. Eating healthy, walking as much as you can (at least 30 minutes a day is recommended) and getting seven to eight hours of sleep may seem like an impossible goal, but it could make the difference to maintaining your health. Think about ways you could incorporate these potentially life-saving healthy habits.
  6. You don’t need go it alone: Outside your company’s resources, try to connect with a group in your community. Even scheduling coffee once a week with a friend could bolster your attitude and help you feel as though you’re not alone. You can also look for caregiving support to share some of the day to day tasks, letting you spend more quality time with your loved ones.

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