Are You Giving Care - and Getting Stressed?

Caregiver stress is a daily fact of life for millions of people. Caregiving often takes a great deal of time, effort, and work. Many caregivers struggle to balance caregiving with other responsibilities including full-time jobs and caring for children. Constant stress can lead to "burnout" and health problems for the caregiver. Caregivers may feel guilty, frustrated, and angry from time to time.

Caregivers often need help caring for an elderly or disabled care receiver. Sometimes other family members or friends and neighbors are able to help, but many caregivers do most or all of the caregiving for a loved one alone. Research has shown that caregivers often are at increased risk for depression and illness. This is especially true if they do not receive enough support from family, friends, and the community.

Caring for a person with Alzheimer's disease (AD) or other kinds of dementia at home can be overwhelming. The caregiver must cope with declining abilities and difficult behaviors. Basic activities of daily living often become hard to manage for both the care receiver and the caregiver. As the disease worsens, the care receiver usually needs 24-hour care.

Caregiver Stress Test

The following test will help you become aware of your feelings, pressures and stress you currently feel.

Which of the following are seldom true, sometimes true, often true, or usually true?

  • I find I can't get enough sleep.
  • I don't have enough time for myself.
  • I don't have time to be with other family members beside the person care for.
  • I feel guilty about my situation.
  • I don't get out much anymore.
  • I have conflict with the person I care for.
  • I have conflicts with other family members.
  • I cry often.
  • I worry about having enough money to make ends meet.
  • I don't feel I have enough knowledge or experience to give care as well as I'd like.
  • My own health is not good.
  • My care receiver needs constant supervision.
  • I rarely get away from my caregiving situation.

If the response to one or more of these areas is usually true or often true it may be time to begin looking for help with caring for the care receiver and help in taking care of yourself.

Stress

This six letter word can be worse than any four letter word you have ever heard. Stress can affect your health and keep you from providing the best care for your family member. So, what do you do to keep healthy when there are so many stressful issues related to caring for your care receiver?

Warning Signs of Caregiver Stress
  • Anger at elder, family, Health Experts, services
  • Withdrawal/feeling overwhelmed
  • Anxiety/constant worry
  • Depression/no pleasure in anything anymore
  • Exhaustion/sleeplessness
  • Worsening of chronic conditions
  • Irritability
  • Lack of concentration/disorganization
  • Change in appearance of caregiver or environment

Stress adversely affects health. It may be a gradual process or it can show immediately. Either way, it can cause serious health problems if not addressed. There are many ways to lessen stress. Experts say the following are the most effective:

  • Exercise
  • Good Eating Habits
  • Support Groups
  • Get Informed
  • Meditation
  • Keep Active Socially
  • Faith Community Connection
  • Respite

What can caregivers do to prevent stress and burnout?

Keeping your health is one of the most important things you can do. If you don't take care of your own health, you will find it increasingly more difficult to take care of the health of the one you care for.The following information offers suggestions on how to stay healthy.

  • Exercise
    Check out your local community center or YWCA. Ask about Senior Citizen discounts. If you live in an apartment community or neighborhood, you may have access to a swimming pool and exercise room. Get a friend and start to use them. And, then there is the best exercise of all and it's free to everyone - walking. Experts suggest thirty minutes of brisk walking every day. It's good for your heart and your spirit.

  • Eat Right
    It hasn't changed! Eat fruit, vegetables, and fiber. Eat other things in moderation. A little red wine may be good for your heart. Take a multi-vitamin if your Health Expert agrees. Drink lots of water. There is a wealth of healthy eating information on the web that can be found using a search engine.

  • Don't Smoke
    We all know about this one!

  • Keep Socially Involved
    Experts will tell you that having friends and people that will support you is critical to good mental health. Good mental health directly affects physical health. So, it is important to continue to connect with friends and family on a regular basis. If you would like to meet new people, Senior Centers are excellent places to start. Get involved in community activities such as Senior Games or volunteer for your favorite charity. or contact your local Area Agency on Aging for Senior Center contact information. A faith community may provide you with social interaction as well. Use your imagination and find the best match for you to help you keep engaged with others. If you are disabled or if your mobility is limited, the computer can offer you a way to stay connected and to keep the ties to friends and family strong. Many Senior Centers have computers a vailable and provide instruction on their use. Public libraries also offer free computer access. Don't become isolated. Reach out.

  • Respite
    Sometimes just getting a break is all that you need. Sometimes getting a break is what makes everything work. That's what respite is - a break for caregivers. Respite is the provision of temporary relief to family members and other primary caregivers caring for an impaired individual at home. It can be provided in a group setting, an individual setting or in a long term care facility.The availability of all three types of respite varies from county to county. Contact your local Area Agency on Aging to see what is available in your community. Another type of respite is available under a different name - Adult Day Care and Adult Day Health. Your family member would attend such a program and have supervision that has been approved by the state to meet certain standards of care. If you belong to a faith community, it is also worthwhile to check within to see what is offered to members. Assistance, including volunteer friendly visiting, may be available on either a sustained or temporary basis. Don't forget family and friends if you need help. Ask for help if you need it. Often, people are more than happy to help but would never ask for fear of offending you. Sometimes, they just don't know what to offer. Ask. You may be able to get the respite you need. If you are able to arrange respite, take the time for you. Relax. Have fun. Do something different and totally to pamper you. Even a short respite of a few hours can do wonders for your mental health and state-of-mind. You will return refreshed and more ready to face the challenges of caregiving.

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