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Caregiving can be rewarding. It feels good to be able to care for a loved one. Spending that time together can give new meaning to your relationship. However, it is also physically and emotionally demanding. Many caregivers are providing help or are "on call" practically 24 hours a day. This leaves little time to spend with spouses, children, and friends, or at work. Those who work full or part time may fear that the many days and hours they must take off will put their jobs at risk. Women caregivers often are overwhelmed by so many competing demands for their time.
Money is often a problem as well. The drugs, doctors' visits, or in-home medical equipment can be very costly. Sometimes the caregiver is forced to delay saving for retirement or to take out loans or mortgages to provide financial help.
Caregiving also can take a toll on the caregiver’s health. They often are so busy taking care of a loved one that they often neglect their own health. Research has shown that women caregivers:
Not taking care of your physical and emotional health will have an effect on your overall health and your ability to care for your loved one. Neglecting your own health also may put your loved one at risk. You may make mistakes when giving medication or forget to make an important doctor's appointment. You may explode verbally, or even neglect or mistreat the person for whom you are caring. Ultimately, you may completely burn out physically or emotionally. This would leave you unable to give care at all.
For your sake and your loved one's, don't ignore these possible burnout signs:
Pay attention to these symptoms and get the help you need. Talk to your doctor about your physical and emotional symptoms. Make sure he or she knows you are a caregiver. Seeing a counselor may help if you are depressed or anxious. And don't ignore emergency symptoms such as severe chest pains, shortness of breath, nausea, sweating, or pain in the jaw. You may be having a heart attack — call 911 immediately. If you feel like hurting yourself or are afraid you will hurt yourself, talk to a family member, friend, clergy member, or your doctor.
The good news is that you can take steps to prevent burnout. Try some of the suggestions from this list. You may not be able to do all of them — or do them all of the time. But making the effort will pay off.
From the Dept. of Health and Human Services: http://www.womenshealth.gov/aging/caregiving/caregiver-stress.cfm
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