Stress Management For CaregiversAnyone who has to serve as a caregiver for an aging relative understands the levels of stress that are involved with caregiving.  Whether it is dealing with incontinence or dementia-related issues, constantly being on call or having to deal with the financial aspects of caregiving, stress will be a constant part of your life.

This is why, as a caregiver myself, I wanted to give some simple tips and strategies that could be applied to alleviate at least some of the stress in all of our lives.

Ask For Help

This might sound like it doesn’t even deserve to be on the list, but the problem here is more psychological than anything else and let me explain why.  In most family situations, it is one adult child who ends up doing at least 99% of all of the caregiving duties for their parents.  And as the other adult children live their lives, this child’s life becomes more and more consumed by the role of caregiver…to the point where they do not have a life of their own.

It reaches the point psychologically that many begin to derive a great deal of satisfaction as being seen as the ‘martyr’ while the others are able to live their lives…and at this stage the caregiver is obviously showing the signs of caregiver burnout.

So, it is time for the caregiver to call a family meeting and explain that they are not capable of handling all of the caregiving responsibilities on their own.  And if you are the caregiver, you should have no problems simply explaining what needs to be done and what you need help with.

The problem with this approach occurs when there are no other adult children in the area or the other adult children are not responding to calls for help.  In this type of situation, the stress levels of the primary caregiver are even higher, because they feel that not only are they responsible for all of the caregiving but they have the added sense of helplessness that there is no one to ask for help.

But that is not the case…there are several sources of help that are available, and you must take the opportunity to receive all of the help you can get.

Office of the Aging

Every county in the country has a local Office of the Aging (it can go by another name…Division of Senior Services for example).  Call them and explain the situation.  Many times they have access to resources that will assist you…or can refer you to those resources…which could include volunteers and respite caregivers who will come in to help you while simultaneously giving you a break.

Take Time For Yourself

This goes hand-in-hand with “ask for help”.  Most caregivers do not have time for themselves because of the 24/7 responsibilities that come with caregiving.  This is why it is indispensible that you receive some form of respite care for your loved one so that you can take time for yourself.

This respite care will provide you with a break and allow you to focus on your family and most of all yourself.

Take Care of Yourself

This is a big problem with caregivers…as the combinational of emotional eating, alcohol, smoking and other self-destructive behaviors such as lack of exercise create a “perfect storm” of negative health consequences for caregivers.

But one of the best ways to relieve stress and combat weight, fatigue and depression is through exercise.

Now, I am not talking about massive, time-consuming activities.  A 30-minute power walk will not provide great physical benefits, but exercise has also been shown to increase your endorphin levels, making you feel better.

So in a lot of ways, stress management for caregivers is a 3-step process:

  • Ask for help
  • Take time for yourself
  • Take care of yourself

By following these steps, caregivers can take strides towards relieving the stress in their lives.

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