By: Sarah Zucker, PsyD

counseling in San DiegoWith more people now living well past the age of 70 in the United States, adult children are caregiving for their parents in more ways than ever before. Frequently, it is one child who ends up doing the majority of the caregiving1 – either due to physical proximity or just because they feel someone needs to step up to the plate and no other sibling has yet taken on the task . There is also a gender bias, with daughters frequently taking on the majority of the caregiving1. Caregiving includes many different things from managing finances, arranging transportation and housing, managing medical information and medication, and even full-time in-home caregiving. All levels of caregiving involve effort, patience, time, and resources.

This means that aging can be stressful not only for the elderly person himself, but also for the loved ones of a senior who is dealing with transition or loss of independence. As a result, it is important that caregivers and family members practice quality self-care, as dealing with an aging parent or relative can be very taxing in many different ways, some harder to recognize than others. Caregivers are more likely to report sleep deprivation, working despite being sick, poor diet, and lack of exercise2. Caregivers who do not care for themselves adequately also face more serious risks: they are more likely to be depressed and abuse alcohol, amongst other concerns. In fact, some recent studies show that 46 to 59 percent of caregivers are depressed2. That’s an alarmingly high rate. And don’t forget, caregiving can also include simultaneously caring for your own young children or teens; it isn’t limited to just the elderly. (This is called the “Sandwich Generation” because people are caring for their children and their parents at the same time.) Many people find themselves in these multiple caregiving roles in addition to managing the mundane tasks of daily living such as work, finances, and housekeeping. It is not surprising that individuals trying to manage so much at once might feel overwhelmed!

So how does one avoid the harsh toll caregiving can take on their mental health? Practicing good self-care includes many things such as eating properly, getting adequate exercise, utilizing a support system of friends and family, taking personal time to relax and de-stress, and possibly seeking therapy if the situation becomes overwhelming. A therapist can help you to discern whether your stress has become more serious and how to help if you are facing depression or anxiety. Therapy can also help you to learn tools to more effectively manage your time and your emotions. You don’t have to do it alone. Thankfully, counseling in San Diego is available. There are many resources when it comes to therapy and support.

As a caregiver myself to aging grandparents in their nineties, I can relate to the stress this role can cause. For me, it is very rewarding, but it can also feel demanding at times. Don’t be embarrassed to seek therapy if things get to be too much. Not even super moms and dads can do everything on their own. Help is available if you are willing to take the first step!