Caregiver alert: It’s time for self-care

It’s no secret that one of the groups hit hardest by COVID-19 related realities has been unpaid caregivers and parents of young children.


The mental health toll of caring for others during this crisis has led to a sharp increase in adverse symptoms from people in both of these groups, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with about 70% reporting symptoms of anxiety, depression, trauma/stressor-related disorder, or suicidal ideation.

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In fact, unpaid caregivers of adults and parents with children under age 18 had significantly worse mental health than those not in these categories, the CDC reported in findings from a survey of 10,444 U.S. adults conducted in December 2020 and late February to early March 2021.


It’s worse for those in both groups, the CDC said, and better when the individual had assistance in their role.


While there are many potential reasons for the severity of the impact, the obvious one is the human tendency to forget about our own needs - especially the difficult, time-consuming ones - when we are focused on helping others in need.


There’s a good reason the oxygen mask adage (put your own mask on before trying to help others as the plane goes down) is said so often. It may be a cliche, but it’s also true.


It’s difficult to impossible to help others when we are in need of help and support ourselves. And we are stronger when we allow ourselves to both give and receive assistance.


Interestingly, the CDC found this to be true too, noting in its report that unpaid caregivers and parents who had their own support had better odds for not experiencing any of the challenging mental health symptoms. They also suggested that mental health services specifically tailored to the experiences of caregivers and parents could be beneficial.


If you’re a caregiver struggling with mental health symptoms, please take them seriously and find support now.


Identify one thing you can do to take care of yourself. Ask a friend to have coffee with you. Take a nap or a walk, read a book, or call a helpline and vent. You’ll never meet the person on the other end of the line again and they will listen openly and understand.


Also, between now and Oct. 1, check out and register for Coastline’s Caregiver Relief Packages for some extra self-care options.


As part of the organization’s program to honor caregivers during National Family Caregivers Month in November, caregivers who live in Coastline’s coverage area can receive a relief package with information and resources for self-care. This includes residents living in Acushnet, Dartmouth, Fairhaven, Gosnold, Marion, Mattapoisett, New Bedford and Rochester.


The packages will be delivered in November, but you must register for them by Oct. 1 by contacting Ana Hayes, Director PCA and Community Program at 774-510-5241 or ahayes@coastlinenb.org.


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