Managing the Stress of Caregiving
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Managing the Stress of Caregiving
Article courtesy of the AARP
If you give care for a parent or elderly family member, chances are good that you also feel stressed at times. Perhaps you feel guilty because you think you aren’t doing enough, and you’re frustrated that you can’t do more. Can’t remember the last time you slept through the night without a call from your father? Can’t bear to see what’s happening to your mother, whose health has been failing for some time?
“Isolation increases stress. Having fun, laughing, and focusing on something besides your problems helps you keep your emotional balance…”
You are not alone. A study conducted by the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP found that more than half of those who provide major care for parents experience stress and strain. Studies show that experiencing stress is not just unpleasant – it can negatively affect your health, well-being, and ability to provide care.
Take Care of Your Health
- Eat nutritious meals. Don’t give in to stress-driven urges for sweets or drink too much alcohol.
- Get enough sleep. If you are kept up at night, try a nap during the day to make up some sleep.
- Exercise regularly, even if it means finding someone else to provide care while you walk or go to exercise class.
- Get regular medical checkups. If you have any symptoms of depression (extreme sadness, trouble concentrating, apathy, hopelessness, thoughts about death), see a doctor right away. Depression is an illness that can, and should, be treated.
Make a list of jobs you need help with. They could include household chores, home repair or maintenance, driving, paying bills, finding information on services you need. Maybe it’s simply giving you a break by staying with Mom while you get away for awhile. Ask friends, neighbors and other family members if they could give some time to helping out.
Maintain Social Contacts
Isolation increases stress. Having fun, laughing, and focusing on something besides your problems helps you keep your emotional balance.
Get Help From Community Services and Organizations
- Consider a geriatric care manager to coordinate your parent’s care. Support could include home health aides, shopping assistants, a housekeeper, a handyman, meal services, and referral programs.
- Perhaps volunteers or staff from faith-based organizations could visit or help with driving.
- Respite care can give you some time off.
Talk About It
Research suggests that keeping your feelings bottled up can harm your immune system and lead to illness. Talk to friends and family about your feelings. Share experiences with coworkers in similar situations. See a professional counselor. Join a caregiver support group to share emotions and experiences, seek and give advice, and exchange practical information.
Deal Constructively with Negative Feelings
When feeling resentful, think about how to change things. Recognize the anger-guilt-anger cycle, and stop it immediately by forgiving yourself for being angry. Then distance yourself from the situation, figure out what caused the anger, and decide how you can respond more constructively the next time. Hold a family meeting to resolve conflicts with relatives. And recognize your accomplishments as a caregiver instead of dwelling on your shortcomings.
Providing care for an elderly loved one can be stressful, but there are ways to reduce the stress. By maintaining a healthy routine, watching your diet, enlisting help from others and exploring community services that support caregivers, you can ensure that you are providing the best care possible – for your loved ones and yourself.
Article courtesy of the AARP.