Caring for Caregivers

By Dr. Chris Votolato, Director of Behavioral Health, Shell Point Retirement Community

Caregivers often report that caring for another person has created a positive emotional change in their lives. In fact, many report that caregiving makes them feel useful and capable. However, studies also show that caregiving takes a toll on physical and emotional health. Limited research suggests that caregivers may also be more likely to have health problems like diabetes and heart disease than non-caregivers.
Caring for another person takes a lot of time, effort, and work. In the process, caregivers put their own needs aside. Caregivers often report that it is difficult to look after their own health in terms of exercise, nutrition, and doctor’s visits. Consequently, caregivers are more likely to suffer from depression and burnout than their peers. Research shows that people who care for their spouses are more prone to caregiving-related stress than those who care for other family members.
It is important for caregivers to seek peer support through a caregiver support group. Members of the group are able to share and learn strategies to deal with the always changing symptoms of dementia and feel understood by others who are going through similar circumstances.

Because being a caregiver is so hard, some doctors think of caregivers as “hidden patients.” If you don’t take care of yourself and stay well, you won’t be able to help anyone else. Make sure you keep in touch with friends and family, talk about your feelings, and ask for help in giving care.