Repressing the emotions of caregiving has its consequences. Caregivers who bury their feelings say that other areas of their lives have suffered, including personal time, time with family and friends, hobbies, marriage and relationships and career.
In a survey conducted by the Home Instead Senior Care network, 74 percent of caregivers who hide their feelings report fatigue, 53 percent report difficulty sleeping, 37 percent say they have experienced depression and 30 percent have experienced weight gain or loss.
Repercussions of caring for an older loved one can be obvious – such as changes in health, or subtle, such as not taking that work promotion or dropping out of social circles, noted caregiving expert Dr. Amy D’Aprix,
The following suggestions could help family caregivers.
• Look to others for support. According to the Home Instead Survey, the most common support systems relied upon by family caregivers were family (80 percent) and friends (67 percent).
• Take breaks from caregiving. Get away from the rigors of the job as much as possible. Turn to a support network for help or consider professional caregiving services.
• Pray and/or meditate.
• Physical activity and exercise. A 2011 study led by researchers at the National Health Research Institutes in Taiwan found those who exercised just 15 minutes a day – or 90 minutes a week – cut their risk of death by 14 percent and extend their life expectancy by three years, compared with those who did no exercise.
• Release of emotions. Crying was noted as a coping mechanism for 32 percent of family caregivers in the Home Instead survey.
“It takes a village to care for an aging parent, “Dr. D’Aprix said. “It’s important that families recognize the value of giving and receive help more freely.”
For more information, visit HiddenCaregiverEmotions.com. To ask Dr. A’Prix a question about caregiving and to learn more about how to deal with the stress of family caregiving, visit CaregiverStess.com.