Caretakers may need a stress test

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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KSPR) - Taking on the role of caretaker for an aging loved one can be stressful and exhausting, and experts say caretakers often forget to take care of themselves.

“It’s a dramatic impact on their health,” said Lisa Thompson, Support Group Specialist for the Alzheimer’s Association Greater Missouri Chapter.

She says caregivers often won’t eat well, get enough sleep, or they will skip going to the doctor.

“Either because there’s no one there to come in and take care of their loved one while they’re gone, or because they say they just don’t have time for it,” said Thompson

She says it’s important for caretakers to find a way to relieve stress so they don’t lose their temper and act out against the person they’re caring for.

“It’s absolutely something we want to avoid, and the best way to prevent that would be to built a social network, which includes a support group. Because support groups are places where you can go and say things that you might not otherwise say,” she said.

She says support groups allow you to talk about thoughts and feelings that you might not be able to express to your family members or friends.

If you know someone who’s a caretaker, and might be stressed out, Thompson says consider stepping in to help them out.

“Say, ‘Hey, I know there’s a support group meeting today. I’m going to come over and stay so that you can go,’” she said.

Thompson says if you’re taking care of someone with Alzheimer’s, or another serious illness, it’s important to schedule respite, which is time away from being a caretaker to just be yourself and relax. She recommends at least 4-6 hours a week.