The one thing they don’t tell you about providing care for another, is that it can have disastrous effects on your own health and well being.
According to the Family Caregiver Alliance, today’s caregivers can suffer from a variety of emotional, mental, and physical health problems that arise from the strains of caring loved ones. A few of these not-so-healthy manifestations of “chronic caring” can include: anxiety, back injuries, cognitive decline, depression, heart disease, immune disorders, low self-esteem, sleep deprivation, substance abuse, and even increased mortality.
As a millennial caregiver, I’m quite familiar with the unfortunate array of negative effects from caring: being exhausted to the point that you cannot sleep, blowing a fuse at just about anyone you encounter, canceling all your own doctor’s appointments in order to accommodate for a loved one’s, and wading through the financial fallout so often accompanied with chronic illness and disability in today’s barbarically-modern society.
It’s discouraging, isolating, and downright destructive.
Caregivers need to be cared for too, but far-to-often, there’s no one to fulfill this need besides the caregiver themselves.
Here are four self-care tips for millennial caregivers:
Don’t Go At It Alone
Providing care for a loved one can be really, really lonely, especially as a 20 or 30-something year old millennial. While your peers are climbing the corporate ladder, having blowout weddings, and raising babies, you’re stuck in an endless cycle of doctor’s appointment, therapy sessions, and medication monitoring. It can feel as though your life is over…
Connecting with other caregivers – either in-person and virtually – can be a lifesaver for the time-strapped millennial caregiver. Contact your medical center’s social work office and request a listing of available support groups. Some nonprofits, like the Salvation Army and area churches, will host regular caregiver support groups. If you’re caring for a disabled veteran, consider reaching out to your region’s Vet Center.
Where’s Your Oxygen Mask?
According to a 2006 Evercare study, nearly three quarters (72%) of caregivers reported that they had not gone to the doctor as often as they should and more than half (55%) had missed doctor’s appointments.
Neglecting your own health won’t help your loved ones – it’ll only make things way, way, worse.
Heard, “Put on your oxygen mask first”?
Prioritizing your own health while a loved one is needing healthcare support can be challenging, but it’s still do-able. While it may be frustrating to juggle the doctor’s appointments, or feel even a little “selfish” when taking a day for your ailments (psst: it’s NOT selfish), being the best you you can be to care for a loved one is essential – not only for your health, but for theirs.
Utilize Available Resources
While the western world has a LONG way to go in terms of supporting the unpaid family caregiver, there are a variety of resources available for millennial caregivers. Here’s a few of my favorites:
- AARP – great library of online resources for caregiver’s of all ages
- Easter Seals – excellent online caregiver training and webinars
- The Caregiver Space – blog collection written specifically for caregivers
- American Association of Caregiving Youth – organization dedicated to the young caregiver
- Elizabeth Dole Foundation – military and veteran caregiver organization
Check them out online and identify the resources that would be of assist with your unique caregiving situation.
Relish the Recharge
Caring for a loved one can be draining – caregivers need to prioritize activities that provide emotional, mental, and physical “recharge”. There are a variety of options out there for every budget and schedule: cooking, exercise, journaling, meditation, music, reading, stretching, walking, etc. By identifying a few recharge activities that feed your soul, you can help replenish your own energy tanks and in turn, have more to give your loved ones.
Not sure where to start? Consider downloading the Stop, Breathe, & Think app (it’s free!) to jumpstart your recharge sesh. Contact other family members or care team members and schedule some respite. It doesn’t have to be anything extravagant – just a few hours on a weekly basis that you get to step away and focus on yourself.
Want to learn more?
Check out these additional caregiving posts for more information and resources: