Elder Caregiver Support Guide
The compassionate and giving individuals who take care of the elderly — either at home or in a care facility — often face physical and emotional challenges from the work that they do. Caregivers may need support so they can improve their own mental health and well-being while continuing to care for those who depend on them. Learn more about different support options for nursing home caregivers.
Why Support for Caregivers Is Needed
Caring for the elderly can have a profound impact on caregivers, creating both positive and challenging experiences.
Providing care can be incredibly rewarding at times, as caregivers often create special bonds with the loved one or nursing home residents they’re supporting and may gain a new perspective on life.
However, caregiving can also be physically and emotionally draining and present many other difficulties.
Almost 1 in 4 caregivers in the United States reported that caregiving made their health worse, according to a study by the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP.
Possible effects of caregiving include:
- Fatigue, exhaustion, and burnout
- Feeling overworked and underpaid
- Inability to maintain a normal life
- Increased levels of stress, anxiety, and depression
- Weakened immune system and increased risk of health problems
These outcomes can be particularly noticeable in facilities that have staff shortages, high staff turnover, few onsite managers, or too many residents per caregiver.
In a home setting, caregivers may become overwhelmed when caring for a loved one who requires around-the-clock care or if they have little support. In many cases, they may still have to work a regular job while caring for an elderly relative.
Home caregivers may also feel the emotional burden of watching a loved one’s health deteriorate.
General Caregiver Resources
There are many websites that provide valuable information to assist caregivers with managing stress and improving their overall well-being.
These resources include:
- AARP: The American Association of Retired Persons has information on coping with guilt when a loved one moves to a nursing home, finding a caregiver support group, and more.
- Caregiver Action Network (CAN): CAN is a nonprofit that provides support and information to family caregivers of all kinds. Check out its Family Caregiver Toolbox, which is filled with resources on the basics of caregiving, caregiving while working, financial and legal tools, and more.
- Eldercare Locator: Sponsored by the U.S. Administration on Aging, this website helps caregivers find services for older adults. Caregivers can find information geared toward them in the “Caregivers Corner.”
- Family Caregiver Alliance: This site’s mission is to improve the quality of life for family caregivers and the people who receive their care.
- Mental Health Resources for Caregivers: The nonprofit organization Mental Health America has information on how all types of caregivers can take steps to boost their mental health.
- National Alliance for Caregiving: This national organization is dedicated to raising awareness and advocating for family caregivers through research and support. Their “Portraits of Caregiving in the U.S.” shines a spotlight on individual caregiver stories.
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Resources: This government website has a list of resources to help people caring for an aging or ill family member or friend.
Magazines and Newsletters for Elder Caregivers
Magazines and newsletters can offer updates and news on the industry along with other information that may be helpful to caregivers.
Magazines and newsletters for senior caregivers include:
- Connections Newsletter: Sponsored by Family Caregiver Alliance, this newsletter provides tips and information for those caring for relatives. Topics include caregiving and depression, making a caregiving plan, and dealing with grief.
- HomeCare: This monthly magazine provides information for professional home care providers.
- Today’s Caregiver: This free magazine celebrates family caregivers. Topics covered include staying fit as a caregiver, finding the right home care agency, patient rights, and more.
Books are another great way to hear from people who have stood in your shoes or to get tips on handling caregiver stress and burnout. You can check your local library for titles or search online.
5 Tips for Caring for the Caregiver
Caregiving can be physically and emotionally challenging, leaving caregivers exhausted day after day.
Whether you’re caring for elderly patients in a nursing home or a loved one at home, self-care is vital to avoid caregiver burnout, which can leave you too depleted to care for those who depend on you.
Here are 5 tips from Harvard Medical School on self-care for caregivers:
- Be kind to yourself. Give yourself credit for all of the difficult things you do, and take time for yourself, even if it’s just a few minutes each day.
- Breathe. Practice breathing exercises to help you relax.
- Try a mind-body practice. Yoga, tai chi, meditation, and other mind-body practices can help with your physical health and reduce stress. You can find guided meditations online.
- Eat healthy food and get quality sleep. Good nutrition and sleep can help ward off caregiver burnout.
- Join a support group. Joining a support group like the ones listed above can help caregivers feel less alone and promote self-compassion.
Caregivers may also benefit from professional counseling to help them navigate the challenges that come with taking care of someone else.
Remember, you don’t have to go through this alone. Support for caregivers is available to help you prioritize your own health and well-being.