July 18th, 2018 | BY: Allegra Chaney

Managing Stress for Caregivers

Dear Allegra,

I’ve been taking care of my 86 year old father for several years. At first he only needed assistance with transportation or an occasional errand, such as visiting the doctor or picking up a prescription. Over the last year, however, his health has declined quite significantly.

My father now requires help with daily tasks ranging from taking a shower to preparing meals and paying bills. My husband and I are struggling to keep him safe while also working full-time and caring for our teenaged children.

Do you have any advice for caregiver stress relief? I know we need to learn more about the signs of caregiver stress and find healthy ways to manage it.

Kind regards,

Alicia

Caregiver Stress Relief

Dear Alicia,

You are right, this is a question we often hear from adult children who are trying to care for a senior loved one at home. Juggling so many responsibilities can indeed be a challenge.

I have a few suggestions I hope will help you and your husband manage caregiver stress:

  • Practice good self-care: When you are busy caring for everyone else, it’s easy to put your own health on the back burner. Doing so will only make your role as caregiver more difficult. When you aren’t taking care of yourself, your energy is lower, which makes managing stress tougher. Try to commit to getting 7–8 hours of sleep each night, exercising for 15–20 minutes a day, and eating a well-balanced diet. You’ll be rewarded with increased energy and a better ability to cope.
  • Find avenues for assistance: It sounds like you and your husband might not have other family members to help care for your father. If that is the case, it’s important to explore other avenues for support. Your house of worship, for example, might have a volunteer-friendly visitor program. Volunteers make visits to homebound seniors to provide a helping hand or give the older adult an opportunity to socialize with someone other than family. You might also find respite care services from a home care agency to be an affordable solution. Respite caregivers can help with tasks such as bathing, grooming, dressing, meal preparation, and light housekeeping.
  • Use quick relaxation techniques: When you are feeling overwhelmed, try to pause for even 10 minutes to engage in a relaxation activity. Deep breathing, yoga, and meditation all take a little practice to master, but they are great for managing the mental and physical symptoms of caregiver stress.
  • Stay in touch with friends: Emotional well-being is important when you are a caregiver watching a senior loved one’s health decline. Try to stay in touch with friends and loved ones who give your spirit a boost and make you laugh. Even if it’s only once or twice each month, time out with friends can help you better cope with caregiver stress. In between visits, you can use phone calls, social media, and apps like FaceTime to stay connected.

Finally, since you mentioned you wanted to learn more about the signs and symptoms of caregiver stress and burnout, here are a few of the most common:

  • Sudden tearfulness or anger
  • Frequent headaches or digestive problems
  • Unintentional weight gain or loss
  • Development of unhealthy habits (drinking to excess or smoking)
  • Exhaustion that sleep doesn’t help to overcome
  • Withdrawal from favorite friends, pastimes, or social activities

I hope this information is helpful, Alicia! Best of luck to your family.

Kind regards,

Allegra