Caregiver stress is all too real. Every week we hear from caregivers who are at the end of their proverbial rope. And the challenges they face are shared by thousands of San Diego County women and men who provide care for a parent or loved one.
Being a caregiver can be a difficult, tiring, anxious experience. Yet it can also be rewarding and fulfilling, knowing you are helping your loved one through one of the most difficult times in their lives.
That said, there are things you can and must do to make your job less of a burden and reduce caregiver stress:
Have a general routine, but realize that many days will bring an unplanned, and even unwelcome, event.
Live in the present and remember that tomorrow will be a new day. Do your best to enjoy the time you have with your elderly loved one while they are still with you.
Take care of yourself first. You can’t be a good caregiver if you are not feeling your best. Don’t ignore signs and symptoms of your own failing health.
Take regular scheduled breaks, whether that be for an hour each day or for an entire day each week.
Join a support group to share your experiences with others.
Ask for and accept help from all who offer.
Get outside for fresh air and exercise at least once a day.
Use humor and laugh often.
Eat a well balanced diet and drink plenty of water.
Don’t watch too much television (unless it’s Ellen:)
Don’t use drugs to deal with your stress.
Don’t abuse alcohol to deal with your stress. Notice this says “abuse”. A glass of wine at the end of a long day may be just what the doctor ordered.
Don’t sacrifice your other relationships. Your friends, spouse, and children need your time and attention also. Time away with friends is particularly important – they won’t judge you like family often can.
Pamper yourself and your elderly loved one. Add music, massage, deep breathing, stretching, aromatherapy and other relaxation mediums to your day. Listening to music lessens caregiver stress and lowers cortisol levels.
Allow yourself to feel the natural emotions that come with the difficult job of caregiver. It’s normal to feel some resentment and anger, but it’s unhealthy to harbor that resentment and anger so that it effects your outlook on everyday life.
Know when it’s time to get more help permanently, whether that’s a move to assisted living or getting in home care. Don’t let your guilt about not being able to provide the care yourself overshadow your reasoning. You’ve got to maintain your own sanity.