By Darlene Oakley
A Caregiver’s Burden
Caring for someone 24/7 on top of other family responsibilities and stresses can take an enormous toll on a caregiver.
About 20 percent of caregivers experience caregiver depression, which can last even several years after a loved one has passed away.
Caregiver stress can happen because of lack of support from other family members, because of emotional abuse from belligerent and demanding attitudes of the person they’re caring for. It can occur because of resentment and frustration over so much of their time being taken from looking after someone else, and grief over the loss of vitality and life in their loved one. Obviously, these aren’t the only stressors in a caregiver’s life.
Tips to Manage Caregiver Stress
Step One: The first step in alleviating caregiver stress is acknowledging that you need help. It is surprising how many family caregivers are afraid to ask for help and assume that they should just automatically know how to care for an elderly loved one.
Step Two: Acknowledge that it’s okay to be scared, angry, lost, sad, depressed and to lose your patience. That it’s normal to not want to sacrifice your whole life to someone else, to not know how to do everything or have all the answers.
It’s understandable if you feel that you are trapped, as well as all the other feelings that go along with caring for someone else. Acknowledge that these feelings are absolutely okay to feel, and that you need to learn how to manage them.
Step Three: Decide that you are going to start doing things differently. For starters, get help. Call an agency, call another family member, call your local church and get someone who can stay with your loved one while you take care of yourself.
Be specific in your requests (eg: “I just need an hour on Wednesday”). Don’t be afraid to ask for help and to tap into those resources that can help you cope with taking care of yourself so you can take care of your loved one.
Step Four: Don’t expect that you will do everything perfectly. Prioritize what needs to be done and organize things in manageable pieces so you’re not overwhelmed.
Less is more. Accept that good enough is good enough, and that finding shortcuts to some things can help alleviate stress for the moment, so that you can come back to it and do a more thorough job when time allows.
How you perceive things and coach yourself about situations — whether negatively or positively — can have a huge impact on your physical and emotional well-being.
Step Five: Know and accept that the unexpected happens, and learn to go along with it. There is no sense in fighting it and trying to wrench it into compliance with your wishes and perfectly timed day.
Step Six: The most important step is to take care of yourself. Caregiving is a very selfless act. Caregivers give 100 percent of themselves often 24/7, to take care of their loved one. It really is an act of love.
But make it a regular habit (daily, weekly — whatever your schedule will allow or what you can arrange) to take care of yourself. Be selfish during this “me time”.
Do not compromise yourself into thinking that you don’t need it this week. To be the best caregiver you can be for your loved one, you need to be healthy, energized and rested.
Professional Help for Alleviating Caregiver Stress
If all of this seems overwhelming, talk to your family physician who can help you devise a respite care plan or put you in touch with agencies that help with just this very thing.
The Internet is also an amazing tool. So many resources are available at just a click of the mouse. If you’re not sure about something, don’t be afraid to ask, and know that you are not alone.
Caregiver Depression: A Silent Health Crisis. Family Caregiver Alliance national Center on Caregiving. Web. Jan 25, 2012. http://www.caregiver.org/jsp/content_node.jsp?nodeid=786
“What’s OK and What’s Not OK When You Are a Caregiver” by Cindy Laverty. Agingcare.com. Web. Jan 25, 2012.
“Time Management Strategies for Caregivers” by Carol Bradley Bursack. Agingcare.com. Web. Jan 25, 2012.
“Family Won’t Help With Caregiving? How to Change Their Mind” by Holly Whiteside. Agingcare.com. Web. Jan 25, 2012. http://www.agingcare.com/Articles/get-family-to-help-with-caring-for-eld…
Elderly Caregiving: Choices, Challenges, and Resources for the Family. University of California, San Francisco Medical Center. Web. Jan 19, 2012.