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If you're the caregiver of a chronically ill or disabled relative, you know how exhausting--both physically and emotionally--the job can be.
Caregivers are, after all, "on call" around the clock as cooks, nurses, bill-payers, and errand-runners--and they're often trying to balance those tasks with their own feelings about the declining health of someone they love.
Caregiving can be so stressful that some doctors describe caregivers as "hidden patients."
If you're a caregiver who's feeling angry, sad, or moody; who's crying more than usual; or who's just plain overwhelmed, you probably need to take care of yourself, too.
Here are some tips to help caregivers alleviate stress:
- Talk with the doctor about your feelings. As doctors, "You're not only treating the patient, you're treating the family, which takes care of the patient," says Dr. Donald Freidenberg.
- Ask friends and family members for help in giving care.
- Look for help in your community. You may start by asking your house of worship if they have services or volunteers who can help you.
- Join a support organizations. "You can find people your own age who are going through the same things," says Dr. Jonathan Hollister.
- The Alzheimer's Association offers message boards and chat rooms. Visitors also can search for local support groups.
- The American Heart Association offers caregivers top 10 tips to refresh yourself
- The American Stroke Association lists tips from caregivers themselves.
- Caregiver magazine offers a chat room for caregivers.
- Familydoctor.org lists signs of caregiver stress.