Patience and compassion are two qualities that a long-term caregiver needs an abundance of when caring for a loved one. While caregiving is emotionally and physically rewarding, this selfless duty also comes with endless challenges. It takes a lot of personal willpower when tending to someone in need of constant help. Even the most compassionate and understanding caregiver can experience stress if he or she is not taking care of his or her own mental and physical well-being.
In reality, long-term caregivers are handling the daily needs of both their loved ones and for themselves. When caregivers let their own needs go unattended, the results are stress or burnout. When this happens, both parties can suffer. Recognizing the signs of caregiver stress is fundamental to acknowledging that some positive actions are needed on your part to minimize those triggers.
Consider using some or all of the following tips for caregivers to help avoid or control stressful situations.
Signs of Caregiver Stress
When you are caring for a loved one, it is natural that your attention will be focused on the needs of that person. But, neglecting your well-being can result in some of the following signs of caregiver stress:
1. You are frequently tired and feel physically drained.
2. You are sleepy but cannot get enough sleep.
3. You feel overwhelmed and that you cannot manage the situation.
4. You let little things easily irritate you.
5. You feel you are not appreciated.
6. You are neglecting your daily diet by eating too much or not enough.
7. You are losing interest in your favorite activities.
8. You have periods of feeling sorry for yourself.
9. You have stopped socializing with family and friends.
10. You want help, but you don’t know how to get it.
Tips to Handle Caregiver Stress
The demands of caring for a loved one can be endless. These daily chores may include helping them get in and out of bed, helping them with good personal hygiene, giving them their medications on time, ensuring they eat healthy meals, taking them to medical appointments, and keeping their living environment clean, neat, and safe for their physical abilities. Yet, it is equally important that you have the time to care for your own health and well-being so that you will be mentally and physically able to care for someone else.
1. When planning the day’s activities for your loved one, plan some time for yourself. No, it is not being selfish to carve out some time during the day for a relaxing bath, to watch a favorite television show, to talk with a friend, or to work on a hobby. A few hours away from your constant caregiving helps to calm your worries and recharge your mental and physical energy.
2. It is okay to get help. If your loved one cannot be left alone, it is okay to ask a family member or a friend to stay with him or her while you take care of personal chores like getting your hair cut, going to a department store, putting gas in the car, or going to a gym for exercise. You can enjoy the short time away from the house when you know that your loved one is with someone you trust.
3. Make and keep your own medical appointments. This means having your annual or semi-annual checkups on schedule, getting the recommended vaccinations and boosters, and, if needed, taking your medications on time. If you are enrolled in Medicare, make sure to keep up with your annual Wellness visits. Staying healthy is a good defense against exhaustion and becoming stressed out.
4. Join a caregiving support group. Most local communities have support groups and specific resources available for caregivers dealing with a variety of illnesses and diseases. Because the people involved with these resources know what issues you are dealing with, they can provide you with meaningful problem-solving techniques, teach you valuable strategies for handling difficult situations, and validate the importance of your service. Community support groups can you locate necessary services such as meal deliveries and transportation to and from medical appointments. When you are open to sharing the demands of caring for a loved one, you will have less stress, worries, and anxieties.
5. Establish and keep a nightly sleep schedule. Getting too little sleep can be just as detrimental to your personal well-being as getting too much sleep. Set a time span for nightly sleep that will let both you and your loved one get a good night of quality sleep. Your body needs this time to relax and rejuvenate itself. When you have quality sleep you will be better prepared for your caregiving chores in the morning.
6. Keep in touch with friends and family. Whether you socialize on the telephone, on the computer, or in person. Staying active with others keeps you connected with the outside world. Not only will you know what is happening in the lives of those you care about, but they will also know what is happening with you. In addition to sharing good news, these connections can be an invaluable sounding board for issues that concern you.
Stress is a very real issue for even the most devoted caregiver. Knowing what the signs of stress are and knowing how to minimize those stressful triggers will enable you to continue caring for a loved one while knowing you are doing the best job possible for both of you. Use the above tips for caregivers to give yourself the boost you need to continue with your valuable and rewarding work.