Chronic health conditions affect Americans in virtually all facets of society, causing many to experience physical or mental difficulties, and sometimes both. People with such difficulties often require a caregiver to assist with their daily functioning. These caregivers, often family members to the patient, take on not only their own responsibilities, but those of the lives of another, making way for a unique set of challenges for them to adapt to. With these excess stressors, peer support and understanding is paramount to the well-being of the caregiver.
This month we commemorate National Caregiver Month in recognition and support of all those who dedicate their time to ensure the well-being of another.
When an individual takes on the role of a caregiver, they often experience significant life changes – some leave their jobs, relinquish a personal hobby, or have less time to socially engage with others. Life shifts such as these lead many caregivers to feel isolated or withdrawn, with some studies reporting that up to 50% of caregivers meet criteria for clinical depression (Medrano, 2015). However, the role of a caregiver can be one of great personal fulfillment and importance, and while the majority of their time may be spent helping another, it is essential they take the time to tend to their own health and well-being.
If you are a caregiver for another, here are some tips to keep in mind to stay on top of your own personal needs:
- Maintain a healthy diet and exercise regularly. Be sure to make time for your individual health needs and address them.
- Ensure you have social support. Having close friends and family to share one’s concerns is crucial to maintaining a positive mentality.
- Don’t be afraid to seek help. A variety of programs and interventions exist specifically geared toward caregivers and their needs.
Gustavo Medrano, PhD, is a licensed clinical psychologist at The Family Institute. He specializes in working with individuals with depression/mood disorders, stress management and chronic illness and disabilities.
If you or someone you know is a caregiver in need of professional mental health support, or for additional information, please call The Family Institute at 847-733-4300.
The Family Institute offers affordable, effective mental health counseling for families, couples and individuals in Evanston, Chicago, Northbrook and Westchester. Visit our website to learn more about our services.