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Caregiver Stress is more common than we once believed. A 2015 survey from AARP and The National Alliance for Caregiving shows that there are almost 34.2 million unpaid American caregivers. Another report also revealed that one in five caregivers has high levels of physical strain. While two out of five caregivers find their role as emotionally stressful.
Caregiving is a stressful responsibility. This is true especially if you feel that you only have very little control over your senior’s situation. Caregiver stress is real and must not be ignored. It can significantly take a toll on so many aspects of your life. It can affect your own health, your career and personal relationships. It can also take a toll on your own state of mind. The result is burnout that hinders you from being productive. In turn, you will find it tough to perform caregiving tasks.
No matter how high your stress levels there are ways to reduce it. You should realize that experiencing burnout will not do you and your care recipient any good. This is why you need to know the signs and symptoms of caregiver burnout. This way, you can find ways to reduce it before it takes a toll on you. The following is a list of symptoms of caregiver stress.
- Feeling anxious most of the time
- Worsening health problems
- Fatigue that doesn’t seem to go away
- Having difficulty sleeping
- Difficulty focusing
- Losing or gaining much weight
- Becoming irritable and easily angered
- Losing enthusiasm for activities used to be enjoyed
- Having headaches and/or bodily pains
Once you realize that you are hit with these symptoms, seek help. There are plenty of ways to reduce these symptoms of stress. The following are some of the ways to deal with caregiver stress:
Accept Your Situation
The stress of caregiving worsens if you don’t accept the situation that you’re in. Acceptance will go a long way toward making your role less stressful. Accept the fact that as a spouse or child it is your duty to be the caregiver. But, this does not mean you will continue the role even though you are no longer capable. If your senior has progressive illness professional help must be sought. Accept the truth that your care recipient has an illness that warrants higher level of care.
Letting go of resistance may be difficult in the beginning. But, you have to realize that you need to take charge of the situation. Stop spending so much time resenting or feeling sorry about your situation. Know that you have to make choices. You can either choose to be the victim of circumstances. Or, choose to be your own boss and be on top of the situation. The second option will set yourself up for a less stressful caregiving journey. Forget about what you’ve planned before. Move on and focus on the situation you’re in now. When you let go you’ll find it easier to clear your mind from unwanted cobwebs of resistance.
Keep a Positive Mind
Having positive thoughts about your caregiving role will keep depression at bay. Caregivers are at risk of depression. This is because they do not give themselves time for socialization. They feel that their world is getting smaller each day. And, they think of caregiving as a role that deprives them of the chance to enjoy life. They think that they’re already stuck in a stressful role. They think they cannot be productive anymore in some other aspects of their life. But, if you’d only look at the positive side of caregiving you will find happiness in it.
Think of your role as an example to your children. Make your children understand that caregiving is a rewarding role. Let them see how you also want to be treated when you get older. Instead of stressing over your caregiving tasks, celebrate. Be happy that you are there for your parent or loved one. Celebrate the fact that no one else can give him the best love and care but you. Stop worrying about the things that you cannot control. Be grateful that you have the capacity to provide care for your loved one. While you acknowledge the fact that help is available. You just have to look for it in your community or in the internet. Let these thoughts serve as your motivation in your caregiving journey.
Caregivers feel better if they hear words of appreciation. And, some of them feel bad if they think their efforts are not appreciated. Caregivers who feel appreciated have better health than those who feel the opposite.For some of them, caregiving actually makes them happy. They rejoice at the thought that they are showing their love for their loved one through caregiving. But, others are sad if the care recipient is no longer capable of expressing his appreciations. In this case, it is best to imagine how the recipient would react if only he were healthy enough to do so.
Imagine the words that your recipient will say about the efforts you’ve done to make him feel better. Talk about your role with your friends and family members. This way, they will realize the struggle that you’ve been through. Once they know these things they can’t help but express their appreciation for you.
It is also helpful if you applaud your own efforts. Find time to reward yourself for the hard work you’ve made. You can do this by watching your favorite movie at home. You may also take the time to listen to your favorite music. Or, cook your favorite food for dinner. You can reward yourself without the need to leave your elderly at home.
Know When to Ask for Help
Caregiver stress increases if you keep all your struggles to yourself. Failure to take a break is also a surefire way to make your stress levels soar. Always find time to take a break. Even if it means only for thirty minutes a day or two hours on weekends. Also, do not try to do it all alone. If you have difficulty in some areas of caregiving, ask for help. Many caregivers make the mistake of thinking they’re all alone in their caregiving ordeal. This leads them to experience too much stress that affects their health. Read the following to know where to obtain help.
- Respite Care – Leaving your senior to respite care will help you take a break from caregiving. Others also use this time for processing some documents which they cannot do while caregiving.The costs of respite care differs according to the chosen agency and the type of service the care recipient needs. The duration of respite care provided may also vary. It can be for just one afternoon or one whole day. It can also be for a month or less. It can also be provided at home or in an adult day care center. It can also be arranged in a healthcare facility. Some assisted living facilities, if they aren’t full also cater to respite care.
- Meals on Wheels – this program makes meal preparation one less thing to worry about. Seniors who find meal preparation difficult can have food delivered to their homes. Signing up for this program can help caregivers have more time to do other more important tasks. Meals on Wheels have more than 5,000 local programs that are run independently. The services offered in this program may vary depending on the needs of seniors in each community. The aim is to help seniors get proper nourishment and live a healthier life as they age.
- In-Home Services – provide services that help seniors maintain quality life while aging in place. In-Home services are provided by insured and certified caregivers. They offer services such as meal preparation and wound care. They also offer help with bathing and managing medications.
- Adult Day Care Centers – this is where temporary relief is given to caregivers. They do this by providing assistance to care recipients while their loved one who serve as caregiver is away. These adult day care centers usually operate during business hours. Their centers are mostly open five days a week. Some of these centers are open during weekends or evenings.
- Make caregiving a “family role.” Try to enlist other family members to help you in your caregiving tasks. You can ask them to run errands for you. You may also ask them to bring you hot meals from time to time. Schedule other family members to take your place on weekends. This way, you can have time to enjoy or have a break from caregiving.
Do not be ashamed of asking for help. At the same time, you should not be ashamed as well in accepting help. When someone offers help, welcome him with open arms. Learn to delegate but avoid micromanaging. Some people do not like to help if they feel they are micromanaged.
Join a Support Group
Joining support groups for caregivers will greatly ease some of your burdens. Besides, you will also have the chance to learn more from information shared by fellow caregivers. These support groups conduct meetings that allow caregivers to talk about their experiences. This way, they learn from each other. Appreciation and encouragement are also easily obtained by joining these groups. You may think you don’t have time to attend a support group when actually attending a support group will make you more effective in caregiving. These support groups will also help you manage your stress. Most of all, it helps you realize you are not alone in your struggles.
There are several ways to look for caregiver support groups. You can even choose one that caters to your specific situation. For example, there are support groups for caregivers of people with Alzheimer’s. There are also support groups for caregivers of cancer patients. You can also find internet support groups so you won’t have to leave home. The following are some of the support groups that you can turn to for help.
- Visit the Family Caregiver Alliance site. This site helps you find online resources and support for family caregivers. Obtaining free information and support can be done online on a 24/7 schedule.
- You may also visit the AARP online Community Caregiving forum. Here you can read and join discussions about any caregiving topics. The aim is to improve each caregiver’s quality of life. You can read the discussions or posts on this forum. If you want to reply to these posts you need to register first.
- If your care recipient has Alzheimer’s, you may visit an online support group called ALZconnected. This site allows you to share information about your caregiving experience. You can also get advice and answers to your caregiving concerns.
- Check out Eldercare Locator if you want caregiver support program in your locality. This site is courtesy of the U.S. Administration on Aging. It helps you connect to services available for older adults, their caregivers and families. You may also call them at numbers 1-800-677-1116.
Take Care of Yourself
You cannot be a caregiver of another person without first being your own caregiver. You need to be in good health to be capable of providing care to others. Stop jeopardizing your health by neglecting self-care. Instead, do the following tips to keep your body in shape despite the pressures of caregiving.
Stay well-nourished. Caregivers have the tendency to be emotional eaters. While others prefer to skip meals. This may only worsen caregiver stress. Emotional eaters love to feast on high-sugar and high-sodium junk foods. Don’t fall victim into this emotional eating trap. Instead, stick to whole foods diet. Steer clear from processed foods that will only do you more harm than good. Opt for plant-based foods like fruits and leafy greens. Don’t forget healthy fats and lean protein.
Get enough sleep. This may seem hard to do as a caregiver. There will be times when you need to stay up all night to take care of your elderly. But, you need to get enough sleep as much as possible. Sleep allows you to renew your body’ strength. Avoid drinking caffeine or alcohol. Caffeine is a stimulant and alcohol is a depressant, either one will make it harder for you to get restful sleep. Take the time to make your bedroom conducive to that sweet slumber you need. Simple adjustments to the temperature or bedding can make your sleep more satisfying.
Exercise regularly. Don’t say you don’t have time to do this. Exercise is not an indulgence it’s a necessity! Do what you have to in order to adjust your schedule for yoga or any other exercise you prefer. Jog for thirty minutes everyday or three times a week. These few minutes you spend on exercising can already do wonders in lowering your stress levels. Remember that there are many exercises that you can do at home. This way you don’t have to worry about your leaving your care recipient.
Caregiver stress is a serious thing. If left unchecked it can trigger the onset of many diseases. De-stressing yourself will make it easier for you to stay healthy. You need to be healthy. This statement cannot be overemphasized. As you are already aware of, the benefits of being healthy are so immense. It makes you happier and sets you up for longer and better quality of life.