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Dealing with Caregiver Stress

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Start with identifying the expectations you have for yourself as a caregiver

Posted May 30, 2011



Caregivers have a tendency to try to do everything themselves. Some become overprotective, or believe their "caring" and attention is all the aging senior requires. No one, they tend to believe, will provide care as well as they do.

Many caregivers today are taking care of their own families, as well as their aging parents or an aging relative. It’s important for many caregivers to realize and accept the facts that they are not only human, but also imperfect. That means, no matter how hard they try, no matter how hard they plan, there are moments in life when things happen. No one person can ever meet every need of another human being. It is just not possible.

It takes many individuals to support an aging senior in the home. And it should. There should always be a backup in place who can provide care should the primary caregiver become unable to. And there’s another reason there should be a backup system: primary caregivers need and must have regular time away from their duties to take care of themselves.

A person caring for another individual has needs too. The daily commitment without a break leads to chronic stress, frustration, guilt, and resentment. These negative emotions affect the physical health of the caregiver. Time way from responsibilities and duties of the daily grind can rejuvenate and refresh the spirit. It gives an individual the energy to continue in the caregiving role.

Having a family meeting with all family members and the aging senior is very important to avoid or to deal with guilt. It’s important to make all involved aware that there are limits to what you are capable of doing. Assign tasks and responsibilities to others. Set limits with times you can take, and return phone calls and emails. Ask family members who are not willing to assist with any of their time to assist financially.

Positive self talk goes along way in dealing with how you feel and respond. Instead of thinking about all the things you think went wrong or seeing the negative, look at things from a positive perspective. It will take some work, but give yourself credit for things you do. Pat yourself on the back; tell yourself you are doing the best you know how to do. Acknowledge that you are learning something new every day about yourself, that you have taken on a difficult challenge and you are making a difference.

Rephrase things from "I should" or "I must" to "I choose to" or "I need to." Phrasing things in a more positive light takes away the guilt.

Consider this scenario: "I should take time for myself. I must take better care of myself" versus "I choose to take time for myself because I need to take care of myself." The change in wording can alleviate negative feelings such as guilt or inadequacy.

Take time to find laughter and humor in everyday. You should laugh often. It is a great stress reliever and also boosts the spirits. Find things that you enjoy and allowing yourself time and the pleasure to enjoy them will decrease feelings of stress and guilt.

It is also important that when you are experiencing negative feelings, such as guilt, resentment and frustration to realize what you are feeling. If you identify the feeling, try to identify what caused that feeling to present itself. Emotions and feelings are reactions and responses that are not rational. If you can identify what is going on and causing you to feel this negative emotion, then you can work at changing either the behavior that has caused the feeling or the intensity of the response.

For example, you feel guilty about feeling resentment and anger at a friend who is planning a trip or just an evening out. You have obligations and multiple responsibilities. You could never allow yourself to go out and enjoy an evening because you have too much to do.

Let’s look at that scenario. You feel guilty about negative feelings you are having toward a friend. You identify that you feel responsible to take care of everyone and everything. You realize you are overwhelmed, exhausted and stressed. You can change this scenario. You can and should take time for yourself. You can overcome caregiver stress by starting to take care of yourself. Take the tips for dealing with guilt, frustration and anger and put some of them into practice. For some caregivers it will have to be baby steps to giving up their responsibilities. Their own health depends upon it.

Diane Carbo, RN has over 35 years’ experience in a variety of nursing settings, including orthopedics/rehabilitation nursing, home care, discharge planning, case management, oncology, hospice, senior behavior health, assisted living, and long term care. Her passion is to help people plan for long-term care needs, and to that end started AgingHomeHealthCare.com. Her goal is to assist aging seniors and their families to develop plans that allow individuals to remain home, safely and comfortably, in the least restrictive environment, regardless of age, income or ability level.

 

Comments (2)

retirenet
May 31, 2011 6:36 pm

 

This comment has been disabled.

retirenet
May 31, 2011 6:39 pm

 

As CEO of The Retirement Net, I can relate to this article probably better than any other article posted on our network. My father has been sliding into Alzheimer's disease for several years and I can see the burden it has placed upon my mother. Were Alzheimer's a disease that you either had or you didn't, it might be easier to deal with. But the fact of the matter, dad is sometimes here and sometimes not. And this one fact is the most difficult aspect. Putting my father in a full time facility seems almost not necessary, after all there's absolutely nothing wrong with him...until there is. And then he is almost unmanageable. And then he's back, great father and husband. The back-and-forth puts and incredible strain on my mother. We encourage her to spend more time for herself but who is there for dad? We live several hours away and cannot be there quickly when he goes off the deep end in the middle of the night. Unless you've been there, its enormous pressure for a primary caregiver, a silent burden that most people will never know.

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