The First Selectman's Corner
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We probably all know someone, whether a relative, neighbor or friend who is helping to care for an elderly family member, someone with an illness or disability, or a child with special needs. Caregivers need and deserve our support and help, as well as our respect and admiration. There are many ways to show your support to a caregiver, and I hope you’ll find this article informative and inspirational.
Wishing you a safe and healthy Fall!
Leslee B. Hill
Spotlight on Mental Wellness
Support a Caregiver
As our population ages, more adults are living longer in their own homes. As a result, more families and friends are providing caregiving support to prolong the time older adults can stay at home and live reasonably independently. According to AARP, more than 34 million Americans provide unpaid care to an adult over 50. In addition, parents and grandparents are providing care to young adult family members with mental health issues and physical disabilities. This population is often forgotten and carry an extra burden as they fear reaching the age where they can no longer care at home for their younger charge. In addition, we are seeing an increase in grandparents assisting with general childcare.
While providing supports like running errands, cooking meals, assisting with activities of daily living and providing companionship can be very rewarding, it can also lead to physical and mental stresses.
Caregivers can experience feelings of frustration, anger, sadness and exhaustion when taking on the responsibilities of caring for someone. While these feelings can be normal, when they become predominant and begin to adversely affect the emotional and physical health of the caregiver, they can lead to more serious outcomes including depression, loss of sleep, anxiety, irritability and physical symptoms including weight gain (or loss). It is likely that everyone either knows a caregiver and/or is a caregiver. Being able to acknowledge and/or recognize the signs of caregiver stress is important for early intervention.
The following tips can help to manage caregiver stress:
• If you are a caregiver, identify ways in which others can help. Having a list allows those willing to help to select those things they are most comfortable with. Taking advantage of facilities that offer respite care or adult day care may also provide a much needed break for caregivers.
• If you are supporting a caregiver, consider ways in which you can offer them help like running errands, cooking a meal or planning a fun outing where the caregiver can relax and have fun. Even a periodic phone call to ask how they are doing lets them know someone cares.
Stay connected/seek social support.
• As a caregiver, learn about caregiving resources in your community that might be helpful. Caregiving services such as transportation and meal delivery may be available relieving some of the stressors on your time.
• If you are supporting a caregiver, encourage them to find time for themselves, schedule time for socializing and engaging outside of the caregiver role.
Join a support group.
• Support groups can provide validation and encouragement, as well as problem-solving strategies for difficult situations. People in support groups understand what you may be going through. A support group can also be a good place to create meaningful friendships. In addition to more formal support groups, the faith based community might also provide a resource for many. A listing of Support groups can be found by searching CT Caregiver Support Groups. Locations often include local Senior Centers, long term care facilities and assisted living facilities.
Set personal health goals.
• As a caregiver, taking care of your own health is the single most important thing you can do as a caregiver—don’t let it slip to a back burner. Establish goals that help keep you physically active, eating healthy and getting good sleep.
• Those supporting a caregiver might consider encouraging walks, exchange of healthy recipes or other healthy activities that can be done together.
See your doctor.
• Staying current with recommended immunizations including the flu shot and scheduling routine screenings is important for everyone but especially caregivers who may be taking care of individuals with weakened immune systems. Make sure to tell your doctor that you're a caregiver. Don't hesitate to mention any concerns or symptoms you have including early signs of depression or anxiety including loss of sleep, too much sleep, social withdrawal, loss of concentration and anger.
Written by Jennifer Kertanis, Director Farmington Valley Health District on behalf of the Canton Mental Health Task Force.
Spotlight on mental wellness is an initiative of the Canton Mental Health Task Force, facilitated by the Farmington Valley Health District. For our Year Long Call-to-Action and additional resources, go to: http://www.townofcantonct.org/MentalWellness