Caregiver Blog, News Feeds, Video Feeds, Useful Links

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Self-Care for the Caregiver - Who Has the Time Or Money?

A good night's sleep, a breakfast of high protein cereal, and a long, slow walk are some of the ways I have been taking steps for self-care of myself, as a caregiver. But, I know that for many caregivers having the time available for self-care is difficult or impossible, like a luxury. The recent article on CNN about Caregiver Syndrome gave a name to the effects of caregiving stress and emphasized how important it is for caregivers to use self-care. The previous post on this blog explains an article and study that shows Alzheimer's caregivers are at risk for a shortened life.

Regarding my own self-care, now that I'm 55 years old I have joined a local seniors group, the Central Coast Seniors, located at 1580 Railroad St., Oceano, California, and the phone is (805) 481-7886. I plan to take some of my caregiving clients with me to the activities. I know they will enjoy the outing. That way I can visit with friends, play Bingo or Bridge, be part of a fun club, and meet more friends. I plan to bring an elderly senior whom I am assisting so that person can watch or participate too. The group also provides health classes for seniors, Friday night group dinners, and health screening workshops.

The Caregivers Network at lists time off, sleep, keeping a sense of humor, educating yourself, and making realistic commitments as some of the important parts of self-care for the caregiver. Isolation for caregivers is an important problem, and getting together with relatives and friends can be difficult if a caregiver does not have any time off.

Recent articles discussed Alzheimer's caregivers who were visited once a week by a social worker who provided training and coping skills. The caregivers who received this training experienced less stress when compared to caregivers who did not receive training. The problem is that many caregivers do not have time to find training and go to classes because life is a daily struggle with multiple demands.

The lack of time for the caregiver to devote to self-care is a big part of the problem that needs to be solved. Support groups can provide sharing and counseling. But, finding someone to affordably step in to provide caregiving can be difficult. Lack of financial resources to hire paid assistance means a family caregiver has multiple ongoing demands without rest, recreation, or time for friends.

Most people are familiar with the steps for self-care, but there is simply no time for themselves.

Some of the possible options for assistance might include checking with local agencies, such as the Area Agency on Aging, to find out about programs they have for providing outside caregivers to help out with housecleaning and other tasks.

Adult Day Care provides a way for a caregiver to have some time to rest and renew. The adult who goes to day care can have social time and activities in a safe place with assistance available.

A part-time outside caregiver can be hired but this can be too expensive for many people. In my area, San Luis Obispo County, California, USA, agencies charge from $17 per hour to $25 per hour. A registry that does criminal background checks has caregivers for $10 to $15 per hour, but the employer must then get the necessary insurances, do payroll, and supervise. Independent caregivers start at around $10 per hour, but background checks, insurances, payroll and supervising are duties of the employer. For seniors who live alone and need help, there are 24 hour, stand-by-assist caregivers. A month can run from about $7,000 to $12,000.

Often caregiving is very customized to meet an individual's needs, and it is not possible to have a well meaning neighbor stop by for awhile to help a family caregiver have time for self-care. Toileting, dealing with Alzheimer's or dementia, and helping people who are using walkers or wheelchairs are activities that require skills and knowing the individual's routine.

Family caregivers and paid caregivers often are unable to take time for themselves. As Gail Sheehy asked in a recent article at, "Who will take care of the caregivers?"

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi Kristi,
I know, it's extremely tough to stay "above" the monotony, exhaustion, and frustration caregiving sometimes entails. You know all the tricks--you have your arsenal, if you only had the energy to implement any of them!

I know, I cared for my mom full-time, in my home (with teenagers to raise, a marriage and family to maintain and remnants of a career to attend to--occasionally. I tried every way possible to take care of me--nature, walks, reading, petry, art, name it.

But as my mother's Parkinson's and dementa/Alzheimer's grew stronger/deeper/darker, it pulled us both down that vortex. All the things I did to stay "up, up, up" didn't always work.

Like a rip-tide, I had to let the sorrow, the lethargy, the mind and body numbing exhaution take me at times, and then I'd had to figure out how to swim back to shore.

The one thing I did without fail was I wrote every day, even the crapy days. I wrote about the tender times and the chaos with equal voractiy.

Why? I wanted some record of "me," of what my mother and I were going through to endure.

For some reason, this helped--knowing I could always go to the page. It helped to say, "This is our life, just as it is."

By the way, I'm going to be on (live stream television) October 11th talking about my book and caregiving. I hope you'll watch.

~Carol D. O'Dell
author of Mothering Mother: A Daughter's Humorous and Heartbreaking Memoir

Available on Amazon and in most bookstores