December is the season of giving, and it's an important time of year to honor those who give so much of themselves. Caregivers often go unrecognized for their selfless service, and often don't tend to their own needs.
Dr. Drew Oliveira, Senior Executive Medical Director for Regence BlueCross BlueShield of Utah says in recent months, "Caregiving has exploded."
Oliveira says caregivers are typically unpaid, caring for someone with a chronic illness or disability. Due to COVID-19 pandemic, this is now taking place in the home more than ever.
"Before the pandemic, 1 in 5 adults were providing some caregiving activities within their home. That's 50 million people," says Oliveira. And that number is climbing as the need grows to care for children, extended family and even neighbors.
According to a BlueCross BlueShield Association Report, the health of caregivers is at risk. “Caregivers had 26% poorer health…compared to the benchmark population due to the stress and pressure of the caregiver role," says Oliveira.
This added stress and pressure has many caregivers turning to unhealthy coping mechanisms.
"Smoking tobacco is up 14 percent. Use of medications up 18 percent, and overeating is up 50 percent. So those types of things that may make you feel better are not great adaptive mechanisms if you are a caregiver," says Oliveira.
Oliveira says there are resources like Archangels that can help caregivers cope, and he advises prioritizing self care. Olivera says,"Find ways to get a break. You need a break from caregiving. You need to take time for yourself." This will allow you to take better care of the ones you love.