By Colleen Harvot, Director of In-Home Care, Valley VNA

Researchers have proven caring for a spouse between ages 66 and 96 can increase a caregiver’s risk of death by 63 percent compared to people the same age who are not caregivers.¹ You are not imagining things when you feel significant mental and emotional strain in your caregiving role!

The stress and fatigue is the result of two separate factors: the actual effort expended in the act of giving physical and emotional care, and the set of values and assumptions we personally hold about the vocation of caregiving. You are adding a heavy burden to your shoulders when you try to do it all. Perhaps you believe:

  • It’s a sign of weakness to ask for help.
  • Our family cares for its own.
  • If I want to age gracefully at home, I need to pay my dues.
  • I am the only one who can do it right.

A well that runs dry quenches no thirst. Refill your well with some simple steps toward better health for you. Everyone around you, including yourself, will feel refreshed. Try these ideas:

  • Take a ten minute walk in the fresh air three times a day.
  • Set a standing coffee date with a friend.
  • Arrange a relaxation corner in your bedroom with your favorite book, some devotional reading, a candle, a comfortable chair, and a coaster for your tea cup. Retreat there twice a day to recharge.
  • Go ahead, go out on the town. A family wedding, a grandchild’s concert, or dinner out with a friend may seem impossible when you are in constant demand as a caregiver. Valley VNA offers a Night Out Caregiving Package just for occasions such as these. Your family member will be provided four hours of care, preparation of a nutritious meal, medication reminders, companionship, and tuck-in services. Meanwhile, you get a well-deserved break knowing your loved one is safe and comfortable. You might also consider the Out of Town Caregiving Package that covers three to four days of hourly assistance to around the clock care while you take a short sabbatical. If you like how these breaks re-energize you, consider setting a schedule for regular evenings or weekends away—something special to happily anticipate on your calendar for your own self-care.
  • Prepare a list of things that need doing. The next time a person says, “Let me know how I can help,” suggest a few options from trimming the shrubs to preparing a weeknight meal or accompanying your loved one to a community activity. Let the “helper” choose what he or she would like to do from your list.
  • Get regular consistent help with caregiving tasks like bathing and preparing meals. Just as you finish one day’s tasks, it starts all over again the next morning! Valley VNA’s Homemaking Program encompasses daily chores like meal prep, dishwashing, laundry, shopping and errands, and transportation to appointments and social activities. Choose from a menu of options and get only the services you need. The Personal Care Program helps in-home care clients with dressing, bathing and grooming, bathroom assistance and light exercise. Learn more about getting started.

We honor every person who shows his or her love and devotion to a family member in need of care. Now let us help you so you can stay healthy and happy in the midst of your busy schedule. Admit it, doesn’t that night out on the town sound grand? To learn more, please call (920) 727-5555. Then make that dinner reservation.

¹Shultz, Richard and Beach, Scott (1999). Caregiving as A Risk for Mortality: The Caregiver Health Effects Study. JAMA, December 15, 1999 – Vol. 282, No.23