Over 65 million people in the United States are caregivers to a family member or relative, and this number is rising. The rising number of elderly people and changes to health care policies has resulted in an increase of care giving that stems from family members. While caring for a loved one can be extremely rewarding, it can also take a physical and emotional toll on the caregiver, so it is important to employ some strategies to manage caregiver stress and burnout.
Certain community organizations may be able to provide classes or support on care giving. Specifically, consult with a group that is directly related to your loved one’s disease, such as the Alzheimer’s Association. Check with your local hospital or county human services department to see what options are available in your area.
Most caregivers do not accept help, as many feel that they are placing a burden onto others or that the job is their responsibility. However, it is important to let others help in order to keep your stress at a manageable level. One way to make accepting help less stressful is to compile a list of the things that others can do to help you, and then allow the helper to select what he or she wants to do.
Get Some Rest
Work to improve your sleeping habits, as a lack of sleep can make it difficult to deal with the demands associated with care giving. A study completed by the University of California, Berkeley concluded that people who did not get enough sleep experienced significantly more anxiety than people who were less fatigued.
There are several ways in which you can find support when you are dealing with caregiver stress. Support groups may be available, and these forums serve as a great way to receive advice and encouragement from other people who are in similar situations. You can also build connections and make friends who understand exactly what you are going through.
It is important to stay connected with your friends and family when providing care to your loved one. Take a break each week to socialize, even if it for a simple phone conversation. Make plans to leave the house in order to connect with others away from the stress of your care giving environment.
If you begin to have accidents yourself as a result of your care giving, you need to slow down. These accidents are often warning signs that you have reached your limit. By slowing down and not rushing, you will be less likely to suffer an accident yourself.
The attitude that you have when caring for your loved one can dramatically affect your stress level. Look at things in a positive light, and focus on what your loved one can do rather that what they cannot. Make every day count and focus on what is rewarding and special about your time together.
By planning for the future, you can work to relieve stress. Review the financial situation of your loved one and then plan accordingly. Consider an alternate plan for care giving in the event that you are no longer able to provide care.
Many caregivers experience stress or burnout as a result of caring for their loved one, and it is important to remember that what you feel is normal and that you are not alone. By following some of these steps, you can focus less on the stress and more on enjoying the time you have left with your loved one.
Our counselors and RNs at Partners in Healthcare are available to talk with you about your in-home care needs including how to reduce caregiver stress while providing better, affordable care. We are a senior care agency providing elder care in Orlando, 407-788-9393.
Hank Charpentier BSB, MBA, MA, Certified Senior Adviser