More than 34 million Americans provide family caregiving services to their aging loved ones. Not only is this a tremendous service for an aging population, but it helps boost intergenerational family ties. However, as a family caregiver, you can face an enormous amount of stress. Because May is Mental Health Month, it’s an ideal time to check in with America’s family caregivers and make sure they are healthy and happy.
All too often, family caregivers like you put the needs of everyone else ahead of their own. With your job, your kids, your spouse and anything else you have in your life, plus taking care of your aging loved one, the stress piles up. Without proper self-care, your mental health can suffer.
This 10-point checklist is an easy way to give yourself an informal evaluation about how well you are managing your stress levels and whether or not you need to make some adjustments to your life. Finding a balance between your caregiving duties and the rest of your life is essential to good mental health.
- Do you spend more than 20 hours per week solely on elderly caregiver tasks and responsibilities? That’s equivalent to a part-time job, and it can lead to overscheduling and missing out on other duties.
- Have you put off investigating a home care agency service that can help with basic tasks? Many family caregivers are reluctant to even look into outside professional aides for various reasons.
- Are most of your caregiving duties considered medium or high difficulty (such as bathing, toileting and dressing) rather than light (such as meal prep or transportation)? More difficult tasks create a heavier burden on the mental health of caregivers.
- Do you handle the majority of the caregiving responsibilities on your own, without much assistance? Shouldering difficult responsibilities day after day can result in chronic stress levels, which are unhealthy.
- Are you neglecting your own health, such as foregoing exercise and a healthy diet? Busy people often neglect their physical health this way.
- Do you feel exhausted or fatigued because of late nights and poor sleep quality? Overly stressed people often report problems with too little or too much sleep.
- Have you gotten feedback at work about declining productivity or quality? Chronic stress, depression and other mental health issues can seriously affect all areas of life, most commonly in jobs.
- Has it been a long time since you’ve participated in your favorite hobby or spent time relaxing with friends? Busy, stressed or depressed people often withdraw from those activities that bring them pleasure.
- Do you have someone you can talk to about your life, your frustrations and your aspirations? Bottling up emotions is not healthy, because everyone needs a significant other, close friend or a counselor to talk through life’s problems with.
- Are you feeling sad, hopeless, despondent, or numb more than a third of the time? These are warning signs of depression, a serious mental illness that frequently affects caregivers.
Be realistic and assess how well you are treating yourself and your mental health. If you can look at each question and provide yourself with honest answers, you are one step closer to seeking out the solutions for achieving a better balance in your life. Your mental health cannot be ignored, and if left untreated, your physical health could start to decline as well.
Remember that you are doing a great job, but everyone deserves the opportunity to focus on their own health and well-being. During Mental Health Month, make sure to give yourself an evaluation to see where things need to improve. Your mental health is definitely worth it.
If you or an aging loved one are considering caregivers in Ralston, NE, please contact the caring staff at Seniors Helping Seniors® Greater Omaha at (402) 215-0308 today.