More than a third of the adults in the US are taking care of someone who is ill, disabled, or is limited because of issues associated with aging. No doubt the rise in diseases that have some element of dementia and cognitive dysfunction has contributed to the growing number of family members who are now being asked to care for someone they love.
Family caregivers face very unique challenges. Just think about the changes that come with being on call all the time. Add to that the constant heightened awareness that comes with anticipating moods, behavior, and safety; the psychological challenges of dealing with cognitive problems accompanying pain-, disease-, or age-related brain changes; and the purely physical demands of providing care and you have a whole lot of people under serious amounts of stress.
In particular, what happens to the caregiver’s brain?
- Prolonged stress leads to hypersecretion of cortisol, which damages the hippocampus, affecting the caregiver’s cognitive ability.
- A highly controlled study showed a significant decline in the verbal IQ and working memory of caregivers. Controls made it very clear that this decline had nothing to do with the caregiver’s age and everything to do with the stress she regularly endures.
It is essential to find ways to reduce stress and find those things that fit in your already over-burdened life because, after all, when in a caregiving situation, who has time to care for herself? Enter Sherri Snelling, the CaregivingClub.com with Me Time Mondays. Click on the link to watch a solution oriented video about the“sandwich generation” and understand why I love Sherri’s vision and approach to caring.
Bright spots and hope?
Pew Research says that 80% of all caregivers are tied in to the technology and actively use it to find solutions, support, and solace. There are great groups like the Caregiver’s Action Network that provide excellent links to resources for caregivers.
With advice from people like Sherri Snelling and the Alzheimer’s Research and Prevention Foundation, Cranium Crunches created RELAX by Cranium Crunches for the even those with no time to spare to take down the stress and breathe. (Insider scoop – an update with brain boosting exercise from ARPF, Tai Chi, and 9 new 3 minute or less yoga routines is coming out next week!)
You can also use technology to keep caregivers, care receivers, and families connected and engaged. Try SKYPE or a Google Hangout. These personal connections, even remote ones, make providing and receiving care better by taking away any feelings of isolation and being in this whole thing alone. Reach out and give a caregiver a real or virtual hug.