The Impact of Caregiving on Your Health and Well-Being
Last updated: November 2023
Being a caregiver can be an incredibly rewarding experience. However, it can also be incredibly challenging, not only for those in your care, but for yourself as well. It is important to recognize the impact that caregiving can have on your own health and well-being, including your self-esteem, physical, and mental health.
Let's explore how caregiving affects you and provide tips for taking care of yourself as a caregiver.
Caregiving can often feel like a thankless job, which can take a toll on your self-esteem. When I started my caregiving journey I was 27, and I had quit my full-time job in fashion to be my mom's caregiver.
I was confident that my mom and I were going to beat this disease together, yet as the years went on, I felt myself increasingly disconnected from friends and family. I felt like my identity shifted to just "caregiver." It made me doubt my capabilities outside of that role and I started to feel sorry for myself.
After several months it became clear that I wasn't able to do everything for my mom - I was going to have to get help. That's when I started looking into support groups for caregivers of people with Alzheimer’s disease and my self-esteem was positively impacted.
Remember that you are doing an incredible thing by taking care of your loved one, and you should feel proud of yourself for it. Set realistic expectations for yourself and celebrate your successes, no matter how small. It can also be helpful to connect with other caregivers through support groups or online communities to share your experiences and receive encouragement.
Are you a part of an Alzheimer's support group?
Caregiving can be physically demanding, from lifting and transferring your loved one to helping with tasks of daily living.
As a young caregiver, I overestimated my physical strength which resulted to me compromising my health on several occasions. I did not stick to a proper sleep schedule or a balanced diet and I very rarely asked for help. I always felt like I did not want to burden or bother anyone else with my problems. Now I understand that it is okay to ask for help and take breaks whenever necessary.
Prioritize your physical health and well-being. Make sure to get regular exercise, maintain a balanced diet, and get enough sleep at night. If you are having difficulty with lifting and transferring your loved one, ask for assistance or use assistive devices such as mechanical lifts to help you with these tasks. Don't be afraid to ask for help from family, friends, or even home care services to share the workload.
Also, consider joining an exercise class specifically designed for caregivers to improve your physical strength and make sure you are taking adequate care of yourself.
Caregiving can also take a toll on your mental health, leading to feelings of stress, anxiety, and depression. I spent a lot of my years as a caregiver on high-alert. I never knew when the next big emergency was going to happen and it made me a nervous wreck.
One of the best ways to cope with my emotional stress came from me seeking professional help from a mental health provider. They were able to provide me with strategies and resources, like journaling, that I could use to manage my stress in a more proactive way.
Seek support when you need it, whether through therapy, support groups, forums, or talking to friends and family. Taking breaks and practicing self-care can also help to prevent burnout and promote overall well-being. This will look different for everyone but taking the time to explore how to support your self-care as a daily practice can offer a more restorative experience in your role.
Caregiving can be a very isolating experience, which can lead to feelings of loneliness and depression. I isolated myself a lot as a caregiver, but I was lucky enough to find a community of caregivers online who had gone through the same thing. My network provided me with emotional support and encouragement, which was invaluable in my journey.
Make time for your own social life by maintaining friendships, pursuing hobbies, and taking breaks. Even small things like playing sudoku, making jewelry, or talking to a friend can make a big difference in your mood and overall well-being.
Sense of identity
Lastly, caregiving can often become your main identity, leading to the loss of other aspects of yourself. Remember, you are still an individual with your own interests, passions, and goals. Make sure to prioritize your own needs and interests, even if it means making time for them outside of your caregiving duties.
Caregiving can be an incredibly challenging, but rewarding experience. Regardless, it is important to recognize the impact that caregiving can have on your own health and well-being. By prioritizing self-care and seeking support when you need it, you can ensure that you are taking care of yourself as well as your loved one.
Remember, you are doing an incredible thing by taking care of your loved one, and you should feel proud of yourself for it.
Caregivers: Do you practice self-care?
Have you or your loved one been diagnosed with Mild cognitive impairment?