November is National Caregivers Month: Who cares for the caregivers?

Many caregivers have no idea what to do, how to do it or where to get help.

The vast majority of older North Dakotans want to stay living in their home as they age. In 2017, North Dakota had 68,000 family caregivers who provided 57 million hours of unpaid care valued at $980 million. These family caregivers provide a range of daily activities, such as transportation, personal care, managing finances, grocery shopping and much more.

Caregiving can be a rewarding experience, but it can also be filled with enormous challenges, such as time commitment, competing demands, financial implications and physical and mental stress. Some common symptoms of caregiver stress are depression, withdrawal, insomnia, trouble concentrating, anger, health issues, exhaustion, anxiety, drinking, smoking and altered eating habits. Many caregivers have no idea what to do, how to do it or where to get help. This dilemma makes family caregivers vulnerable themselves.

It is essential for caregivers to maintain their own health and well-being while managing caregiving responsibilities. There are steps a caregiver can take to cope with their stressors and struggles related to caregiving.

  • Seek support from others. Getting help from family and friends, whether that be emotional support or help with caregiving tasks, can help to lessen the burdens of caregiving. Having help can allow caregivers to be better problem-solvers and prevent difficult situations from becoming worse.

  • Take care of your physical and emotional health. Make sure to choose nutritious foods, get plenty of rest and exercise, and make time for yourself. Also, be careful not to self-medicate with unhealthy foods, drugs and/or alcohol.

  • Set boundaries for yourself. Remember that it is OK to say no. Think of what limits you need to have to keep up your mental, physical and relational wellness. Communicate with your family members what your limits are so that they understand your boundaries and expectations.

  • Consider respite care. With respite care, a caregiver is able to take a break from their caregiving responsibilities for a short time. This can be important time for the caregiver to take care of themselves and their other responsibilities. There are different types of respite care programs and levels of care, so caregivers will want to see what is available in their area.

Overall, caregivers need to focus on their own needs and desires and practice self-care. Doing so will allow them to continue the important job of caregiving.
For more information on this topic, contact Christina Rittenbach, Stutsman County Extension agent, at (701) 252-9030 or

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