4 Tips for Caregivers to Promote Mental and Emotional Health

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4 Tips for Caregivers to Promote Mental and Emotional Health

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Did you know that one of the last things to go if we have advanced dementia or Alzheimer’s is our memory of song? If you’re caring for someone in that situation, sing with them. Don’t just sing any song, figure out what songs were popular during their formative years (think ‘first kiss’ kind of songs) – and don’t just play them, SING ALONG with them!

This is the song I was singing in my head this morning: ‘I’m a caregiver, you’re a caregiver, wouldn’t you like to be a caregiver, too?’

Chances are, probably not.

Because while being a caregiver is some of the most important work any of us will ever do, it’s also some of the hardest. The COVID-19 pandemic has made almost all of us caregivers in some way--it turns out six out of ten of us are worrying about, taking care of, or looking out for a friend, neighbor or family member, according to a recent survey from ARCHANGELS. Fifty five percent of these very same caregivers would not have identified as such prior to the pandemic. And you know what else? There is a 50% chance that someone is a caregiver and doesn’t even consider themselves one. They’re just a ‘daughter,’ ‘neighbor,’ ‘friend.’

Caregivers are the backbone of our country. They’re holding together our healthcare systems and our economy all at the expense of their own time, mental health, and physical well-being. That stress has a real and measurable impact on our bodies. And not just in the ways you might expect.

An analysis of claims data found in a recent Blue Cross Blue Shield Association (BCBSA) report found that anxiety and stress-related conditions were more prevalent among millennial caregivers. One in four caregivers are from the millennial age group, which is especially worrisome as this generation already exhibits a concerning rise in behavioral health conditions. And guess what? Between 45 and 50% of caregivers are men.

Read more: Men as spousal caregivers

When we think of caregiver health, we usually think of the health of the people we’re caring for. But this report shows that if you’re a caregiver, your risk of poor health is 26% higher. In caring for someone else, you’re upping your probability of needing care yourself.

If you’re feeling anxious or stressed, keep these reminders and tips in mind. They won’t magically fix everything, but they could help even things out just a little bit:

You are not alone.

COVID-19 has made caregivers of almost all of us. Let this shared reality be a bright spot. From wherever you are right now, can you see someone else? Chances are one of you is a caregiver.

Identify (or find) your ONE person that you can talk to.

Knowing who to call when you are feeling low, overwhelmed, or just need someone to listen can measurably reduce stress and anxiety. Since so many of us are in this role right now, pay attention to the reality of others. Share your own story and ask others to share theirs. Not only will you feel less alone, chances are they know tips and tricks to help, and you will be able to share yours with them.

There are resources out there.

Believe it or not, there are lots of resources and local support groups available to support caregivers. Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies build and fund support solutions for caregivers in the local communities they serve. The issue is most caregivers are often too stressed out to go look for them. If you don’t have time to find those resources yourself, appoint someone to help. If you are reading this and you know a caregiver (trust us--you do)...

Don’t ask, ‘How can I help? JUST HELP!

Caregivers aren’t great at asking for help. They don’t want to be a burden, have given up asking, or don’t believe help exists. So don’t ask, just do. Fill a fridge, take over watch duties for an hour, mow a lawn, or shovel a driveway. Or just say, ‘Hey, you’re doing a lot. I see you. Thank you for what you’re doing.’ We call that giving someone a lift.

Here’s the reality: Caregivers are everywhere, and they don’t look like what we might think. They are Gen-Z, Millennials, Gen-X, Boomers. They are your postal worker, the truck driver you just drove by, your neighbor. They are you and me. Know that you are not alone and millions across the country are grateful for everything you do.

To identify caregiver burnout and ways to cope, read Signs of Caregiver Burnout.

About the Contributor

Alexandra Drane is co-founder and CEO of Rebel Health and ARCHANGELS, a national movement reframing how caregivers are seen, honored, and supported using a combination of data and stories.

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