Many people are family caregivers and they don’t even know it…

Do you take on responsibilities for your aging parent that they can no longer handle?

If you do any of the following, you are a family caregiver!

    • Grocery shop

    • Make doctor’s appointments

    • See that they get to the grocery store or doctor’s office(s) by having someone else take them

    • Pick up prescriptions, run errands, mow the lawn

    • Laundry

    • Clean the house

    • Make sure that they get to the hairdresser or barber

    • Take over their finances (paying bills, making sure insurance policies are in place and paid, etc.)

    • Find and pay for in-home care (whether it is their money or your money)

    • If you help with any of the daily living activities (bathing, dressing, brushing or hair and teeth, toileting, feeding or preparing meals

    • Taking time off of work to help

So you see, it is both the hands-on tasks and the tasks that you handle with phone calls, paying for services, making sure services are in place when needed, etc., that make you a caregiver.  Guess what?  Most people that do not do the hands-on caregiving do not identify as family  caregivers…but, you are and that comes with a cost to you and your own health.

Think about it, you are at work and you get a call from your mom and she needs something NOW.  You either leave work now or you figure out who to call to go and help her.  What is happening to you and your body right at that moment?  Your chest or stomach gets tight, you clench your teeth, your breathing becomes shallow and your shoulders tense up, all the while your mind is racing, thinking and figuring out what to do and who to call.  This time it was a “minor” crisis but next time it may not be minor.

You get the problem handled and now you get back to work. Simple, right?  No, not even close to what really happens to a person when they have handled or taken care of a crisis.  It will take you about an hour to calm down enough to refocus and work somewhat effectively again.  It will take much longer for the cortisol dump (some adrenaline too) to completely “get out” of your body.

Health Risks of Family Caregivers

Now imagine two, three or even four crises a day.  What will happen to you and your body over time?  You are at increased risk of the following:

    • Stomach or digestive issues

    • Headaches

    • Low back pain

    • Sleep disturbances or Insomnia

    • Depression

    • Anxiety

    • Weight gain

    • You can’t concentrate very well

    • Heart disease

How will you manage your own stress?

Stress happens!  How will you handle it in your life?  You get to choose.  You can either handle it in a healthy way or an unhealthy way.

Unhealthy Ways:

    • Drinking excessively

    • Smoking

    • Overworking

    • Increasing caffeine consumption

    • Buying stuff/Overspending

    • Taking medications inappropriately (even over-the-counter medications)

    • Not sleeping

    • Over-eating or Under-eating

    • Eating too many sweets

    • Sleeping too much

They sneak up on you too.  A little more each time you indulge.  About two or three months in, someone who loves you may say something, unless you are hiding it.  Doesn’t matter, eventually it will come out. You are human and maybe, just maybe you didn’t realize what you were doing or why you were doing it.  Now you have been made aware of it.  What will you choose?  Continue on this path or work on decreasing your stress in a more healthy way?

Healthy Ways:

    • Choose more healthy food options

    • Walk or run for 20-30 minutes a day

    • Decrease or stop your alcohol intake

    • Drink more water throughout the day

    • Take a few hours for yourself to do things that you enjoy every week

    • Get good sleep

    • Learn deep breathing techniques and practice daily for 5 minutes

    • Having a sense of humor even inappropriate humor is a stress reliever

Kick the perfectionist in you to the curb.  It is not all or none = success.  Be like the willow tree and bend but don’t break.  Yes, it is easier said than done. As with most things, the more that you practice the better you become and you always get to choose.

My shameless plug for my services:

I get it; you are smart and very good at your job.  You feel that you should be able to figure all of this out and handle it.  Maybe you can, for a while, and then at about three years in you are truly at your breaking point.  Are you smart enough to know when you just don’t know?  There is nothing wrong with you not knowing.  It is not your field of expertise so stop beating yourself up.  Maybe it is time that we had a conversation to see if I can help you and your loved one.  It is not an either, or it is a both, and. I can help you to provide better care AND get your life back.

Let’s talk and see.

Pat Collins

865-684-8771 (leave a message if I am unable to answer right away)


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