Caring for an aging parent or loved one can affect just about every facet of the caregiver’s day-to-day life. As we’ve discussed in recent weeks, there are the practical elements of navigating health and medical bureaucracies, conversations you need to have to be able to best tend to their finances and paperwork, as well as self-care for the caregiver.
But along with the mental and emotional output that comes with caregiving is a physical toll as well. It comes in various forms, be it through stress or the daily demands of caring for an older loved one.
As caregivers work so hard to maintain and protect the health of their loved one, in this blog we’ll examine the ways in which caregivers need to be cognizant of their own physical health as well.
Effects of Stress
When people consider the effects of stress, they largely focus on the mental health aspect of it. And while that’s vital, stress also has physical manifestations that come with it as well.
In this article on agingcare.com, they note that stress felt by caregivers can result in a variety of health concerns, including a weakening of the immune system, cardiovascular, metabolic, respiratory and gastrointestinal problems, muscle tension and pain (more on that below) and sleep issues.
Of course, it’s one thing to recognize stress, it’s another to do something about it. The first option might be to reach out for help – a family member, friend, anyone in your orbit who can lend a hand, and then take it one step at a time form there.
Day-to-Day Physical Exertion
If you’re caring for a loved one who is still largely independent, the physical strain may not be too demanding. But many older adults need assistance getting out of bed or standing from a seated position, help with bathing and dressing, and other day-to-day tasks.
For the caregiver, the physical toll of that assistance day in and day out can add up over time. Knees, back, shoulders, joints, muscles – they can all be affected. According to caregiver.org:
-About one in ten (11%) caregivers report that caregiving has caused their physical health to get worse.
-Caregivers suffer from increased rates of physical ailments (including acid reflux, headaches, and pain/aching), increased tendency to develop serious illness, and have high levels of obesity and bodily pain.
The effects can be more acute as a result of the next aspect, which is…
Lack of Time for Exercise
One reason caregivers can sometimes find their health compromised is that they simply don’t have as much time as they need to exercise and take proper care of their bodies. If someone is caring for an aging loved one, raising their own family and also working, time is at a premium as it is, and finding 30 minutes or more per day to walk, run, exercise, do yoga or anything else is sometimes nearly impossible.
Not only are people struggling to find time to exercise, they’re often trying to relieve stress in ways that compound their health issues. According to Blue Cross Blue Shield, 50% of caregivers cope with their stress with food, 18% with medication and 14% with alcohol.
Taking care of yourself requires a commitment, but creating time to meet your own physical and emotional needs will end up making you a better caregiver to your loved one.
Aging adults tend to require more medical appointments than any other age group, and as such, caregivers often find they have a busy schedule of appointments for their parent. With time already at a premium, too many caregivers don’t make their own medical appointments, be they preventative or in response to an ailment they may be dealing with.
As the agingcare.com article notes, “Doctor’s appointments, immunizations and recommended screenings are crucial for prevention, early detection and treatment of new and worsening health problems. Shortages of time, energy and funds are typically to blame for these oversights, as many family members place their care recipients’ needs before their own. The intention behind this gesture is good, but it can ultimately backfire.”
Prestige is Here to Help
Prestige Senior Living understands the impact caregiving can have. It’s why many of our communities offer respite stays, so caregivers can take a break while knowing their loved one will be in good hands.
We also find that many older adults who join us for a respite stay enjoy the programming our communities provide along with the social element, and thus find themselves wanting to become residents.
If a respite stay might be in order for you and your loved one, contact the community nearest you to see if it’s an option.
In addition, we currently have a resource page for caregivers with useful information we hope can help in your journey.