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Why Professional Support is Important and How to Know When You Need It

Caregiving can be incredibly demanding, both physically and emotionally. As a caregiver, you shoulder the responsibility of caring for a loved one who may have complex medical needs, require assistance with daily tasks, need errands run for them, or face cognitive challenges – all on top of your own day-to-day responsibilities. As such, it’s no wonder that the demands of caregiving can take a toll on your well-being. That’s why it’s essential to explore avenues for support and self-care. In this article, we’ll help you identify the point at which you should seek professional support to help you maintain your physical and emotional health. Let’s dive in.


The Importance of Caregiver Well-being

It’s easy to overlook our own needs when our loved one’s condition needs our attention. It’s an overused statement, but only because it’s true: you can’t pour from an empty cup. Your well-being as a caregiver is critical. When you're physically and mentally healthy, you can provide better care for your loved one. Neglecting your well-being, on the other hand, can lead to caregiver burnout and negatively impact both you and the loved one in your care.


Here are some statistics that highlight the importance of caregiver well-being:

According to the 2021 AARP report, there are an estimated 48 million family caregivers in the United States. (Source)


Of these, “only around one-quarter of caregivers reported being in excellent (6.0%) or very good (19.6%) health, with nearly one-third (32.2%) reporting that their health is worse than it was 6 months ago.”


Most (55%) of caregivers reported at least one medical condition; of these, the most prevalent were sleep disturbances (32.7%), depression (31.6%), and chronic pain (22.9%). Read more on this topic here.


Identifying Caregiver Stress

Caregiver stress often stems from common stressors such as:

  • The physical demands of caregiving on your time and energy

  • Emotional strain from watching someone you love struggle through something difficult

  • Financial worries stemming from anything from needing to take time off of work, to paying for additional mileage/gas or medical appointments.

  • And the sense of isolation because it feels like you’re alone in your struggles.

Physical and Emotional Indicators of Stress

Physical indicators of stress may include intense fatigue, sleep disturbances, and changes in appetite. Emotionally, you may experience feelings of sadness, anxiety, restless thoughts, and frustration. If you have noticed that you seem to lose your temper more often, can’t seem to get enough sleep, or constant intrusive worrying about your loved one, you may want to consider looking into those symptoms a bit deeper.


Recognizing When You Need Help

If you consistently feel overwhelmed, behind on your tasks, or like there’s too much to do, it's important to acknowledge it. You may need physical help to get it all done. But there’s a lot of weight beyond the physical task load.


If you find that stress is impacting your daily life, relationships, or health, it's a sign that it might be time to seek emotional support. Signs it’s time to seek help include:

  • Anxious thoughts/anxiety

  • Depression

  • Irritability that you feel you can’t control

  • Feeling increasingly resentful of those around you (including potentially the person in your care)

  • Feeling tired and run down

  • Having difficulty sleeping or staying asleep even though you’re tired

  • Overreacting to minor disturbances and annoyances

  • New or worsening health problems (aches, pains, etc.)

  • Trouble concentrating

  • Drinking, smoking, or eating more

  • Lack of appetite

  • Neglecting outside responsibilities

  • Cutting back on your favorite leisure activities

  • Etc.


Recognizing when you need assistance is a courageous step towards better self-care, and caregiving long term.


The Role of Counseling in Caregiving

Counseling offers a safe and supportive environment for caregivers to express their feelings, cope with stress, and develop strategies for self-care. It can provide emotional relief, enhance problem-solving skills, and promote overall well-being while reassuring you that you aren’t alone in this unpredictable journey. Even if it feels like it.


Types of Counseling Available for Caregivers

Various types of counseling are available, including individual counseling, group therapy, and online counseling. Each type has its advantages, so either choose the one you feel suits your preferences and needs best, or try a few before you commit to any single type.


How Counseling Can Improve Caregiver Well-being

Counseling can lead to improved mental health, reduced caregiver stress, and better management of your emotions.


The goal of counseling is mainly to equip you with the tools you need to handle challenging situations easier, ultimately fostering resilience and enhancing your ability to provide quality care. We aren’t born with a manual for getting through the challenges caregiving, so taking time to create one for yourself with professional guidance can make all the difference.

Closing Thoughts

If you’re providing care to someone and feel overwhelmed by the work, we invite you to check out our free resources designed to help you through it. To get more information about the resources we have available to you as an Orange County, California caregiver, contact us at the California Caregiver Resource Center of Orange County.


Further Reading & Resources

Those caring for someone with a cognitive problem, like dementia, have worse mental health outcomes than other types of ailments. If that applies to you, we encourage you to look at our cognitive impairment-related content and resources to help.


Read Next: Understanding Dementia-Related Wandering

Understanding dementia-related wandering is essential for helping those living with a cognitive impairment to stay safe and get the best care. In this article, we’ll help you understand the causes, symptoms, behavior management tips, treatment options, and community care options to help you better care for a loved one showing signs of dementia-related wandering. Click here to read about it.

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