How to Identify and Manage Caregiver Stress

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by:  Tehila Mörtl

 

With population growth and advancements in medical science the number of elders in our society has increased dramatically over the past couple of decades.  Along with the growing numbers comes more cases in which elders require caregivers.  In fact, Family caregivers now make up 80 percent of care in the United States today.   

While caregiving is rewarding and can aid in enhancing the quality and prolonging an elder’s life, this is also an emotionally and physically stressful role for anyone, particularly family members.  I know all too well, from personal experience, the deep sadness of watching a loved one deteriorating right before your eyes.  Those feelings of devastation are enough in of themselves to result in caregiver stress but couple those with social isolation, depression, financial difficulties due to illness, frustration and the sense of powerlessness over the situation can result in adverse effects on the caregiver’s health and well-being.  Of the 80% of informal caregivers, almost 60% also hold down a full-time job.   

To help identify symptoms and ways in which to help manage caregiver stress, we at Advise & Protect Senior Care Consultants offer the following:

 

Symptoms to be aware of include

 

  • ·Anxiety, constant worry
  • Denial
  • Neglect
  • Sadness, depression
  • Inability to sleep or sleeping to much
  • Tiredness, exhaustion
  • Difficulty with concentration
  • Feeling agitated or angry
  • Loss of interest in activities
  • Headaches, body pain, physical difficulties, worsening of chronic conditions
  • Social withdrawal
  • Alcohol and drug (including prescription medication) abuse
  • Dramatic weight gain/loss, change in personal and/or home care 

Managing caregiver stress

  • Though it might feel like it, you are not alone.  Accept help when it is offered by friends or family be it with cooking a meal one or more times a week, assistance with errands, having someone sit with your loved one while you take a break and go shopping, on a walk with a friend, etc.
  • Working and providing care can simply get to be too much so, those who have jobs, check with your employer to see if you are covered by the Family and Medical Leave Act as you may be eligible for up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave a year.
  • Learn to say, no.  No one can be everything to everyone so it is important to be realistic in commitments outside your family.  This is a trying and difficult enough time without taking on extra tasks or responsibilities.
  • Join a support group.
  • Take advantage of local services in your area such as adult day care, transportation, meal delivery (i.e. Meals on Wheels).
  • Remember to take care of yourself - eat healthy, drink plenty of water and establish a good sleep schedule. 
  • Even if it’s just 10 minutes a day, physical activity reduces stress so, get moving.
  • Protect your health by keeping regular medical appointments, scheduling immunizations and screenings.  Discuss any new or worsening symptoms or concerns with your physician.
  • If you are experiencing depression and/or anxiety, discuss your options with your doctor.  Ask for a referral to a mental health provider.
  • Use relaxation techniques such as meditation, progressive muscle relaxation and breathing exercises.
  • Go for a walk, take a hot bath or anything else you enjoy even if it is just for half an hour each week.
  • One of the best ways to fight the feelings of helplessness is by understanding all that you can about your elders condition so, educate yourself.  All sorts of information is available online; as well as, support groups. 

Remain alert to signs of depression

  • Feelings of hopelessness and helplessness
  • Change in appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Feeling restless and irritable
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Difficulties with concentration, memory or making decisions
  • Loss of interest in intimacy
  • Feeling guilty
  • Suicidal ideology

To give of ourselves is the most selfless gift we can give our loved ones and caregiving takes times, patience and understanding.  By taking care of yourself you are also taking better care of your loved one.  In this way you also protect your elder from anger, resentment and frustration that can build up and lead to elder abuse and neglect.  Should it all become too much, remember you are not alone and can all the National Crisis Hotline:

 

Need Help Anytime?

If you or someone you know just can't take it anymore
call the
National Crisis Hotline

1-800-273-TALK
or

1-800-273-8255

 

Should you have questions or need assistance, please feel welcome and encouraged to call Advise & Protect to talk with one of our experienced and compassionate senior care consultants.  We have the experience to assist with securing any service you might need.  For those who would like to share their own experience in managing caregiver stress, please contact us directly.

Should you be in need of help with senior care, elder law, moving for seniors, estate management, medical equipment, etc. please do not hesitate to call Advise & Protect Senior Care Consultants at 646-820-9202 so that we may aid in meeting your needs!


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