How caregivers can alleviate stress

Metro Creative

Serving as a caregiver for a friend or loved one can be both rewarding and taxing at the same time. The senior housing authority A Place for Mom indicates that 41 million Americans offer unpaid caregiving services, and that number is expected to increase as the aging population grows in the coming decades. Formal caregivers are paid care providers in a home or care setting. However, an informal caregiver is an unpaid individual that assists others with activities of daily living as well as medical tasks.

Whether one is a formal or informal caregiver, researchers have long known that caregiving can adversely affect a caregiver’s mental and physical health. The AARP Public Policy Institute says 17 percent of caregivers feel their health in general has gotten worse due to caregiving

responsibilities. The National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP also indicate older caregivers caring for persons age 65 and older report a higher degree of physical strain.

The fatigue that arises from caring for another individual is often referred to as caregiver burnout. Since caregiving takes place over several years, the impact can escalate over time. Caregiver stress is directly related to burnout. One of the first steps to take is recognizing the signs of caregiver burnout so that action can be taken to improve the situation.

The Mayo Clinic says signs of caregiver stress include:

  • worrying all the time
  • feeling tired often
  • changes in sleep
  • gaining or losing weight
  • becoming easily irked or angry
  • losing interest in activities once enjoyed
  • feeling sad or depressed
  • experiencing frequent headaches, pains or other health problems
  • misusing drugs or alcohol, including prescriptions
  • missing your own medical appointments or other appointments

Caregivers need to put themselves first at times in order to help avoid health complications that can come from the stress and demand of caregiving. Make use of these caregiver stress management tips, courtesy of the Mayo Clinic and Penn Medicine.

  • Ask for help. Figure out ways that others can help out and then be sure to let them know and accept anything that is provided.
  • Do the best you can. Every caregiver feels they are not doing enough at some point in time. Do whatever you can manage and know that it is adequate.
  • Set small goals. Categorize responsibilities into smaller, more manageable tasks. Make lists of what is most important and tackle those goals, moving on as needed.
  • Reach out to a support group. There are support groups for many different types of needs, including caregiver support. People who are experiencing the same highs and lows as you can offer advice or just be there to listen.
  • Find ways to rest and sleep. Many caregivers are sleep deprived. If sleeping has become an issue, discuss potential remedies with your own doctor.
  • Look into respite care help. Taking a break from caregiving can do wonders. Certain adult care centers and skilled nursing homes offer temporary respite care services for informal caregivers. A loved one can be dropped off for a night or two, giving you a rest. This also is an option if you want to go on vacation.

Caregivers may feel burdened by stress. There are options available to manage it.

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