Being a family caregiver is certainly fulfilling and a way to give back to the senior who gave you so much during your lifetime.
However, it can be a source of stress for caregivers who are already stretched thin between their career and their family life.
Some researchers categorize caregiver stress as chronic stress experience because it is both a psychological and physical stress which occurs over extended periods of time.
Stress can impact the health of caregivers, so it is important to recognize it and do all you can to overcome the stressors in your life.
Impacts of Stress When Caregiving
Many family caregivers have firsthand experience of the impacts that providing care for older adults can have on them, both physically and emotionally.
Stress comes with the territory. Being stressed in no way changes our commitment to this role in the family.
Caregivers value their ability to nurture, support and facilitate the health and safety of their older adults. Your involvement usually allows senior loved ones to continue to live independently as they choose.
Physical effects of stress can occur for caregivers when these conditions are present:
- Poor quality of diet and lack of quality nutrition
- Failure to attend to their own preventive and routine medical health issues
- Feelings of distress and depression
- Advanced age
- Amount of time and complexity of hands-on personal care activity required by senior care recipient – for example, daily or more than 20 hours a week of personal care for ADLs or activities of daily living such as bathing, toileting, feeding, transferring, ambulation, etc.
- Extended duration in years of caregiving responsibilities – longer time involved in caring versus new-onset caring
- Caring for a person with dementia
- Lack of adequate sleep or regular physical activity
Caregiving stress can be manifested in frustration, exhaustion, anger, mood swings, feeling deserted or isolated, sadness, weight changes, pain, headaches, weakened immune systems, or illness.
Caregiver Stress Reducers
We know stress is inevitable when caring for others. How we cope with the everyday people and situations in our lives can make the difference between healthy caregiving and burnout.
Here are some ideas to help you adopt behaviors that will help you reduce your stress.
- Go to bed on time and get enough sleep.
- Say “No” to requests that won’t fit into your time schedule or that will compromise your mental health.
- Delegate tasks to capable others. It isn’t a failure to let others help you.
- Simplify and unclutter your life.
- Take one day at a time. Spread out big changes and difficult projects over time; don’t lump the hard things all together.
- Separate worries from concerns. If a situation is a concern, do what you can do and let go of the anxiety. If you can’t do anything about the situation, forget it.
- Have backups: an extra car key in your wallet, an extra house key buried in the garden, extra stamps, etc.
- K.M.S. (Keep Mouth Shut). This single piece of advice can prevent an enormous amount of trouble.
- Get enough exercise.
- Eat right.
- Get organized so everything has its place.
- Every day, find time alone. Relax and refresh.
- Having problems? Join a support group and/or see a counselor. Try to nip small problems in the bud.
- Remember that the shortest bridge between despair and hope is often a good night’s sleep.
- Laugh and Laugh some more!
- Develop a forgiving attitude – most people are doing the best they can just like you.
- Be kind to unkind people they probably need it the most.
- Talk less; listen more.
- Slow down!
- Every night before bed, think on one thing you’re grateful for that you’ve never been grateful for before.
These are just a few things you can do to release some of your caregiving stress.
There are other beneficial strategies that family caregivers can practice to cope with stress, such as meditation, yoga, massage therapy, hot baths, learning more shortcuts or techniques to make caring easier, scheduling time for yourself and things you enjoy, flexible work schedule, aroma therapy, and other relaxation tactics.
It is true that some stress can motivate us to react appropriately to situations with which we may be faced. However, long-term stress can result in health problems such as the chronic stress of caregiving.
Physical and mental health issues can make caregivers unable to continue to care for their seniors. That is why it is imperative to cope with stress.
Family caregivers can do anything they are called upon to accomplish, but they can’t do everything!