Helpful Tips for Family Caregivers to Reduce Workload & Stress

Family caregiver

Family caregivers around the country are often overworked. Caregiving can include cleaning, driving, cooking, managing finances, advocating in medical situations, and gardening, among other tasks. Maintaining all these aspects of your loved one’s care, in addition to managing your personal responsibilities, can take a real toll.

This has become increasingly apparent during the novel coronavirus pandemic. Some caregivers might even feel additional pressure with the approach of the holiday season. Seeking out volunteer or hired support to supplement your caregiving management can relieve you of some stress. You can also implement other strategies to help manage caregiving responsibilities, like giving the loved one you care for an In-Home medical alert system to use when you’re not there to support them. Read on for more strategies to help improve the balance between caregiving and your personal life.

The State of Family Caregiving in the US

The number of Americans providing unpaid care increased from 43.5 million in 2015 to 53 million in 2020. Most caregivers provide care for just one older adult, but some caregivers are responsible for as many as two or three older adults. Many caregivers are part of the “sandwich generation.[1] These are adults who take care of aging parents or loved ones while also raising children. This caregiving tug-of-war often leaves caregivers without energy to support themselves.

The number of caregivers in America has only grown since the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020. The pandemic made it extremely difficult to create a care network. Seniors are especially vulnerable to coronavirus, so every effort was taken to reduce exposure. Community resources were put on pause, which put pressure on family caregivers. Even without the added stress of a global pandemic, caregiving is no easy feat. 

It’s a common misconception that moving your loved one into a retirement home or assisted living facility means you are no longer a caregiver. On the contrary, caregivers in that situation are often visiting or spending time planning for and checking in virtually on their loved ones.[2] 

Caregiving takes time and energy no matter the circumstances, but some seasons may be easier than others. The warm weather has made its exit, and winter is quickly approaching. What does this changing of the season mean for caregivers?

Winter Is Here…

The winter months and the holidays might cause additional stress for family caregivers. Winter’s harsh weather forces many people inside. Caregivers, who already don’t have enough time in the day for all their responsibilities, can experience heightened feelings of isolation during the winter months.

The holidays can present extra challenges for “sandwich generation” caregivers who need to coordinate plans for multiple family members. Parents who are also caregivers might feel like they are spread thin[3]

Though it feels like the worst of the pandemic might be over, the winter months could bring a surge in common cold, flu, and coronavirus cases. Fear of getting sick pushes many caregivers to take additional precautions and restrict their social circles. Yet it’s important that caregivers have the time and energy to continue providing quality care while still maintaining good mental health. 

Tips For Mitigating Family Caregiving Stress and Labor

Caregivers need care, too. Taking responsibilities off your plate is one of the greatest things you can do for yourself and your loved one, even though it might feel difficult to do at first. As a caregiver, you probably put your aging loved one and other family members before yourself.

The following sections will describe ways that you can boost your mental health by delegating some of your care tasks to other people and prioritizing your own care. You deserve to live a more balanced life, and these strategies can help you get there. 

Coordinating Services with Other Providers

Managing a caregiving schedule is overwhelming. There are several services that offer support in the form of community programs, rideshares, meal preparation, and companionship. Once you connect with one senior service, you’re bound to learn about others. 

  • Locate the nearest Area Agency on Aging (AAA) to connect your loved one with federally funded community services. You can find an AAA by using the Eldercare Locator, which operates under the U.S. Administration On Aging. 
  • If your loved one is a veteran, you should look into services offered by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
  • Consider supplying your loved one with a medical alert system. The On-the-Go Wrist Watch Medical Alert + GPS + Pedometer is a favorite among active seniors. If you feel comfortable with your loved one leaving their home unsupervised, know that they will be safer and have more protection when using this medical alert system.

Asking For Help from Friends and Community Members

Some caregivers cannot afford private support or live in communities for seniors. However, caregiving support doesn’t always have to cost money. If you are working within a stricter budget, you still have options. A strong network of family, friends, and community members can take some responsibilities off your plate. 

  • Use a website or app to delegate tasks. Some sites allow you to invite friends and community members to complete certain tasks by signing up online. These tasks could include rides, chores, meals, or any other service your loved one might need.
  • Join a community of caregivers who organize free and reduced-cost services for each other. Though you might end up giving a little extra time and energy one day, it could mean that you’ll have time to do something for yourself another day.
  • Create a schedule for out-of-town family members, or family members who live nearby but aren’t caregivers, to take over your responsibilities. If you get a week-long break every couple of months, it could make a world of difference for your mental health.

Maintaining Your Own Mental Health Priorities

Caregiving is important, but it shouldn’t come at the cost of your own well-being. Taking time each day to focus on your daily self-care practices can help reduce stress. Your mental health also has a huge impact on your loved one’s care.

  • Take breaks when you have them. You might be tempted to stop in and offer advice or support while other services or community members are helping your loved one. If you have time to yourself, use it to decompress from caregiving. 
  • Focus on the basics: Eat a balanced diet. Get enough sleep. Exercise regularly. All of these seemingly simple routines can get lost in the shuffle when you devote yourself to caregiving. 
  • Socialize and lean on loved ones for support. Caregiving can be emotionally taxing. Make sure you have social outlets to have fun, vent, and get your mind off caregiving stressors. Consider joining a caregiver support group to chat with people who can directly relate to your situation[4].

Outsource Some Labor If You Cannot Perform It

You simply can’t do everything. Perhaps a back injury prevents you from lifting your loved one in and out of bed, or you can’t drive them to every doctor’s appointment because you also have to drive your kids to soccer practice. Figure out what you can realistically provide in your caregiving. Then, find someone or a service that can fill in the gaps. Setting boundaries around what you can and cannot do is not only better for you, but for your loved one, too, because they are getting the care they truly need[5]

Outsourcing labor could look like hiring a service or leaning on the unpaid support of the friends and community members in your network.

A Medical Alert System Can Complement Caregiving

As a caregiver, you may be used to finding solutions to a myriad of challenges. A medical alert system is an easy answer to many of the concerns you have about your loved one’s safety and comfort. With the push of a button, your loved one is connected to 24/7/365 support. These alert systems aren’t just for falls and medical emergencies; alarm buttons can be pressed for security concerns, fires, car accidents, or any time one feels endangered. A personal emergency response system (PERS) is an especially helpful tool when you can’t be there to support your loved one in-person, round the clock. This solution can bring as much peace of mind to you and your family as it does to the person needing your care.

Working within a budget? Alert1 medical alert systems are affordable, starting at less than $20 per month for a basic, in-home device. You and your loved ones can enjoy peace of mind without inducing financial stress. Your loved one will never incur fees for “false alarms” or multiple button pushes, as there is no limit to the number of alerts that can be sent. If you want to see a wider selection of systems, check out more alert system options here.

When your loved one uses a medical alert system, it takes some pressure off of you. Use the strategies in this article to make sure you are getting the support you need in your caregiving responsibilities. Purchasing a medical alert system or using a meal service or rideshare program doesn’t make you any less of a quality caregiver. In fact, leaning on caregiving support systems simply means you are trying to provide your loved one with the best care you possibly can.

 

 

 

 



[1] Jacobs, Barry J. 2020, Jan. 3. The Sandwich Generation Feels the Caregiving Crunch. AARP.org. The Sandwich Generation Feels the Caregiving Crunch.

[2] Family Caregiver Alliance. 2020. Caregiver Statistics: Demographics. Family Caregiver Alliance. Caregiver Statistics: Demographics.

[3] Wonders, Lynn Louise. 2019. Holiday Parenting – Navigating Stress and Generating Joy. Primrose Schools. Holiday Parenting – Navigating Stress and Generating Joy.

[4] SALMON Health. 2021. Sept. 7. Avoid Caregiver Burnout: 7 Benefits of Caregiver Support Groups. SALMON Health and Retirement. Avoid Caregiver Burnout: 7 Benefits of Caregiver Support Groups.

[5] Chesak, Jennifer. 2018, Dec. 10. The No BS Guide to Protecting Your Emotional Space. Healthline.com. The No BS Guide to Protecting Your Emotional Space.