According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 34 million people in the United States are unpaid caregivers to adults who are ill or have a disability. Over half of these caregivers believe their own health has suffered as a result of their responsibilities. Caregiver stress affects many aspects of their lives, and in fact:

  • 67% have put off going to the doctor because they put their loved one’s needs ahead of their own.
  • 51% said they do not have time to take care of themselves properly.
  • 49% are too tired to tend to their own health and medical needs.
  • 37% reduced their paid work time or quit their jobs altogether to care for a loved one.
  • 29% had difficulty managing emotional and physical caregiver stress.
  • 30% felt they needed more help keeping their loved ones safe and well cared for.

If you are caring for an aging spouse and parent and suffer from caregiver stress, you are not alone. Here are some ways to help you cope and find some relief from the day-to-day stresses of caring for an ill or disabled loved one.

Where can I find support for caregiver stress?

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), people can manage personal stress in many different ways. You may find that talking to friends and family when you’re feeling overwhelmed is helpful. Another person might discover that daily exercise, well-balanced meals and eight hours of sleep per night helps them manage caregiver stress. Others may step back from their problems by practicing yoga, getting a massage, or listening to music. Small things, like taking deep breaths and slowly counting to 10 may also help with stress.

It can be difficult, however, to find time away from your responsibilities to exercise or connect with friends and support groups. Fortunately, however, many communities offer respite services to help you find some time for yourself. If you’re unsure where to start or who to ask for help, try these caregiver resources:

  • Your local Area Agency on Aging is a good place to start for community services; use this online locator tool.
  • The website lets you search for special senior services such as adult daycare to help manage your caregiver stress.
  • Local chapters of national disease associations such as the Alzheimer’s Association can help with information on respite care, including in-home companions, homemaker/maid services, and home health aides.
  • The social services department of your local hospital or community health clinic may be able to help you arrange respite care services and point you to local caregiver support groups.

Does Medicare pay for help for caregiver stress?

In most cases, Medicare doesn’t cover in-home services to help you manage caregiver stress. However, if your loved one has a terminal illness and has elected to receive hospice care at home, Medicare may cover the following services:

  • Homemaker services
  • Help from a clinical social worker
  • Home health aide
  • Short-term respite care

Medicare Part A covers these services if the following conditions are met:

  • A doctor must certify your loved one is terminally ill with a life expectancy of less than 6 months.
  • Your loved one chooses comfort care instead of treatment to cure her illness.
  • Your loved one signs a statement with Medicare affirming her choice of hospice care.

It’s only natural to feel caregiver stress from time to time; don’t let your health suffer and affect your ability to care for your loved one by ignoring it.

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