As women, we often become caregivers not only to ourselves and our children, but of aging parents, as well. However, as women’s health expert Marla Ahlgrimm explains, we cannot be effective caregivers if we don’t take the time to care for ourselves first.
According to Marla Ahlgrimm, caregiver stress takes an emotional and physical toll on many women, who are expected to be available 24/7 to meet the needs of aging or disabled parents. The condition can take many forms but often starts with the feeling of being overwhelmed, isolated, or alone. Insomnia, weight gain, a weak immune system, and depression are all also common.
Marla Ahlgrimm reports that caregiver stress puts women at a higher risk of chronic diseases such as arthritis, diabetes, cancer, and heart disease.
Thankfully, there are ways to learn how to handle caregiver stress without succumbing to its effects. Marla Ahlgrimm recommends exploring classes online or in your local area to find out proper ways to take care of an aging parent. This is even more important if they are exhibiting signs of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. Make a list of adult caregiver agencies that you can turn to for assistance when things become overwhelming. Marla Ahlgrimm says there is no shame in asking for help, especially from siblings and adult grandchildren.
Don’t forget your own medical needs. Talk with your doctor about healthy ways to mitigate stress, how to adjust your diet for prolonged energy, and let them know about any sudden changes to your sleeping pattern.
Marla Ahlgrimm says women in a caregiver position should get plenty of exercise and take “mental-health moments” each day. Read a book, listen to some music, or simply go for a walk to step out of your role as a caregiver. Breaking the monotony may not eliminate stress and duress, but it will certainly help.