Avoiding Caregiver Stress
Adapted from the on-line Family Caregiving course – by aQuire Training Solutions
If you are a caregiver, you are likely experiencing higher than the normal level of stress. Caregiver spouses have a 23% increased risk for stroke compared to non-caregiving spouses. Stress is a factor in higher blood pressure, heart disease and death.
Other signs and symptoms of stress:
depression, exhaustion, anxiety, guilt and health issues.Caregivers experience these symptoms more frequently than the general public. It’s important for caregivers to understand the impact of stress on their bodies, their relationships and their emotions. Once a caregiver understands they are at risk for negative impact to stress, they can actively work towards understanding and managing their stress.
10 Symptoms of caregiver stress:
- Denial about what is happening to their loved one.
- Anger at the person they are caring for (expecting more and rising frustration).
- Social withdrawal from friends and activities they used to enjoy.
- Anxiety and worry about what will happen in the future.
- Depression that feels like a dark heavy curtain that keeps persisting.
- Exhaustion that makes it hard to get through the day, completing even the minimum of tasks.
- Sleeplessness caused by worry, concerns and constant anxiety.
- Irritability that leads to mood swings, angry outbursts, or negative relationships.
- Lack of concentration that results in results in forgetting appointments, tasks, or lack of focus.
- Health problems that persist both physically and mentally.
CLICK HERE to take the Caregiver Stress Test
Stress in and of itself is not bad. In fact, stress is the key to growth and can expand our potential; but it must be followed by an adequate recovery or rest time. Caregiving experiences may be the milestone that changes your life for the good. You may look back and say it was the ‘Best thing that ever happened!’ or ‘It was difficult, but I wouldn’t change it for anything!’ That would be after recovery has set in.
- How can you manage stress so it does not become a negative in your life?
- How can you make sure you are not headed for burnout?
Using massage, yoga and meditation helps for the moment, but won’t change anything unless you begin to manage your life differently.
The longer you carry your burdens, the harder they are to carry. Everyone needs a break from time to time. Sooner or later, you won’t be able to carry on. Put them down, refresh, then pick them up after you have rested.
Find a way to put down your burdens, even for a short time.
What is Respite?
Find a way to take a break; get that much needed rest and recovery. Maybe someone else can pick it up for awhile, or you can set it aside for a bit. You will be stronger when you pick it up again. You will be stronger, healthier and happier.
Athletes don’t run on empty. They know what they need to perform at their best! A 15 mile training run requires rehydration, nutrients and rest. Without rehydration, nutrients and rest, they are running on empty! In order to run the race, they need to know what nutrients, fluids and energy they need to run better next time.
A caregiver experiences a marathon of demands! You need to recharge your batteries. You wear many hats: problem solver, coach, counselor, doing an excellent job at work and coming home to daily caregiving tasks. You need to understand how these demands affect your batteries and need to recharge on a regular basis so you can continue to carry on and have a little on reserve for the curveballs.
if you’re a caregiver you need respite. Regular breaks give you a chance to refresh. You need to give yourself permission to get respite.
Professional Care Companies are readily available to provide respite; it is accessible and affordable. A caring companion can hang out at home, visit, enjoy activities together, go shopping, cooking, cleaning and personal care.
Adult Day Centre
Day care for adults: Provide snacks, rest and age appropriate activities. They should be fun, well-managed and safe for your loved one; giving you time to work, shop or just relax.
Short Stay in a Care Centre
Care homes with space available usually have respite care available for days at a time. A Good way to have a stress and worry free vacation.
How to Reduce Stress
- Daily Mental Respite: Focus on what you are thankful for. Keep a gratitude journal. A feeling of higher life satisfaction means less stress. This little exercise, especially when done daily not only leads to greater happiness, but improved physical health, increased energy, and less pain and fatigue.
- Stop and smell the roses. Take time to appreciate the good things in life. The warmth of the sunshine, the brilliance of the rainbow, or the colours of the leaves and flowers. Take mental note of things that bring you pleasure. Increase the positive images in your brain. Helps you slow down a little. It really works.
- Invest in your family and friends. Relationships can bring frustration and agony, or potential for greater joy than any other thing. It is important to work on social skills, close interpersonal ties, and social support in order to be happy.
- Caregivers who are struggling just to do daily tasks often withdraw from social connections that used to bring them pleasure. They just don’t have the energy to go out or pick up the phone. A healthy rich circle of family and friends is very effective to reduce stress.
- Take care of your body. It can feel impossible to take the time to exercise. Walking reduces stress,
- Laugh a lot – the best medicine. Physical effect: lowers the stress hormone, cortisol. Measurable after 10 minutes of laughing. Helps us bond together as humans. People together laugh a lot more often than people alone. Take the time to include humour in your life. See the funny side of caregiving.
A Few Caregiver Tips
- Knowledge is power – the more you know about the tasks, challenges and diseases you face, the better you’ll be prepared. You’ll spend less time worrying about what could happen, and more time taking care of yourself.
- Know your resources – supports groups to find friends who really understand what you are going through.
- Practice acceptance – some things you can change, some things you can’t. As a caregiver, you don’t have to be a magician. Things may take a downturn, but its not your fault.
- Give yourself credit, not guilt – no one is perfect. As a caregiver, you have a lot on your plate. Balancing job, home and family is a challenge. Do your best. Sometimes something has to give. That is OK. Give yourself credit for everything you do in every area of your life and leave the guilt to someone else.
In closing. . .
One day you will look back on your work as a caregiver as the most meaningful time in your life. Managing your stress will help you bring joy, even today. Hopefully you found some information that will help your caregiving experience be easier and less stressful.
Take the Caregiver Stress Test to find out how caregiving can impact your body, your relationships and your emotions.