The Other Side of 50

Caregivers often need care themselves

By From page OSF3 | April 10, 2014

More than 65 million Americans serve as caregivers for family and friends. Typically, this caregiver is at least 50 years old and often works outside the home, while also juggling other family needs and responsibilities.

Caregiving for a family member pulls deeply on emotional ties, shared histories and vulnerabilities for both the caregiver and the person who receives the care.

I have learned during the past 10 years, while listening to the voices of caregivers, that most things haven’t changed much, except that there now seems to be more caregivers as our population is living longer. There is also more awareness of services offered today about caregiving than years ago. Yet, the words of caregivers are hauntingly familiar:

  • “How can I think about myself, when . . . my husband is so sick? Isn’t it selfish to think about taking care of myself? I just don’t have the time because by the time I’ve made the meals, done the laundry, given him his meds and taken him to the doctor, there just isn’t any time left.”
  • “Taking care of my mother is the least I can do, after all she has given me. I am stretched so far that I can barely think straight. I just keep on going, one day at a time, hoping I am doing the right thing.”
  • “This is really hard. I just can’t seem to keep up.”

There is no magic pill to keep caregivers from burning out or breaking down. There are, however, three vital steps that can lead to improved well-being and health of caregivers.

Recognize stress

It’s difficult for caregivers to do something about how much stress they are under. The overwhelming needs of others, lack of sleep, forgetting to eat or eating junk food can pile up like the laundry. Listen for how many times the caregiver says, “I am exhausted,” or “I feel overwhelmed,” or “I am just numb.” Those are clear indicators it’s time for a needed change. Check out www.sharethecare, www.caregiving.org or reach out to your community, family and friends to provide a network of caring helpers, who can give you a much-needed break.

Visit the doctor

Common physical complaints from caregivers include high blood pressure, increased anxiety and depression, sleep deprivation or out-of-control blood sugars. Make an appointment with your doctor for yourself. Let the doctor know what’s going on in your life.

Ask for help

Caregivers are so overwhelmed sometimes, it’s difficult to accept help. When someone asks what they can do, it might be helpful to jot down all the care that you provide for your loved ones. Explore the list with a friend or family member to see what can be shared.

The NorthBay Hospice and Bereavement Center is a not-for-profit that provides services for caregivers who have lost a loved one in our Solano County community. NorthBay Hospice also offers family caregivers respite care provided by trained hospice volunteers.

Some of our Bereavement Center offerings include Journey through Grief classes, which take place in the evenings during a 10-week session. We also have a Tools for the Journey group that meets at noon on alternate Wednesdays for grieving adults, and a Widows group that meets at noon on alternate Tuesdays at our new facility in the Green Valley Health Plaza.

During the week, we offer groups for grieving children and teens, led by skilled facilitators. These services are free, thanks to NorthBay Healthcare Foundation’s Solano Wine & Food Jubilee.

The 27th annual event takes place April 25 at the Specialty Event Center in Fairfield. Money raised at the event will help our NorthBay Hospice and Bereavement Center continue to offer these services. For information, visit www.NorthBay.org. For questions about bereavement services, call 646-3517.

Linda Pribble is the bereavement coordinator for NorthBay Healthcare.

Linda Pribble


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