Many individuals are care givers to their family members. This includes thousands of women who comprise what is often referred to as the ‘sandwich generation’ where they are caring for both their children and their aging parents at the same time. Caregiving stress is a common and growing issue among many adults.
It’s important to recognize the symptoms of caregiving stress as well as focus on ways to better manage it.
What is a caregiver? On definition is a person who provides care to others who need daily assistance or ongoing care. Assisting others can be a gratifying experience but sometimes it can be challenging when we have our own busy lives and our own stress to handle. This extra workload can lead to a unique form of stress which commonly labeled, Caregiver Stress.
Here are few examples of how caregiver stress can impact you:
1. Increasingly frustrated
2. Unhappy when helping
3. Overreacting to things
4. Difficulty concentrating
5. Neglecting your own needs and responsibilities
6. Feeling flat out tired and fatigued
8. Feel angry
9. Feel resentful
10. Denial about their condition
11. Eating more or less
12. Drinking or smoking more
13. Don’t feel engaged but rather detached
14. Feel hopeless
15. Feel unappreciated
16. Lack of sleep
As a caregiver, it’s oftentimes not possible to delegate the responsibility to someone else for a short or long time. However, there are things you can do to help ensure your own well-being.
1. Join a caregiver support group. You may feel that you are the only one going through this, but you are not. You need to be able to talk with other people who know and understand what you are going through and experiencing.
2. Look into respite care which would allow you periods of time to rest and recharge. Respite care is care that is offered for short term to give the caregiver a break. It can include in-home care, companion care or you physically taking your loved one to a facility. It is not permanent. It can be anywhere from a few hours or a few weeks.
3. Schedule self-care/maintenance to focus on your personal well-being. You are the only one who will be with you for 24/7.
4. Ask for help – it can be hard to ask for help as you may perceive it as a sign of weakness. This is not true, so stop it. We all need help.
5. Accept help – by the same token, you may feel that you have to be the hero and take care of everything and everyone and may be reluctant to accept help from others. Again, there comes a time when you have to think of yourself and lighten your load, even if it’s for a brief amount of time. All you need to do is accept it and say thank you.
6. Talk to your employer. You may not want others to know what you are going through but it’s important that others depending on you understand your full situation. While some people feel that going to work can be an escape from your home stress, others do not. Your work performance may be suffering. Talk to your employer about what’s going on. Also talk to Human Resources. There may be options for taking personal days if needed.
7. Start an exercise program, if possible. Exercise, even if it’s just going on a short walk, will do wonders for your emotional and physical health. You can even exercise in your home. This will strengthen your body and help to release natural endorphins.
8. Try to tap into your empathy/ compassion.
9. Let it out (outside the presence of your loved one). It’s a release. Cry, shout, but then get it together, just reset yourself. Just don’t do this in front of your person 10. Journal your day. You will be able to not only release some of the stress you have, but also look back years to come and see how you were a big help to the person.
10. Play music. It may be music that your caregiving recipient likes, especially when they were younger. It can possibly bring them back to a time when they felt better. Or play nice music that you like to uplift your mood.
1. De-Clutter your primary care area. Having the area be free from clutter and be clean will help reduce anxiety, it will reduce time looking for items that you need to work.
2. Put your Power of Attorney and other affairs in order. It’s important to ensure everyone’s wishes and expectations are recorded while the charge is of sound mind. Have those difficult discussions now and not later.
I personally wanted to say to the caregivers out there thank you so much for what you are doing. These people need you. I’m sure no one grows up saying “I want to be dependent on others to live and be clean and be safe.” It just doesn’t happen. So thank you for stepping in and stepping up. Also, you want to be the one to say when it’s all said and done (no matter the outcomes) that you know you did all you can do. You want to have a free heart and free mind.
I encourage you to ask for help, join support group, and take care of yourself. And for those of you who are not care givers and you see that a caregiver is suffering or struggling, please offer to help, even a day can make a difference. Offer to share. You never know what the future holds. You one day may need someone to help you and be your caregiver.