Being a healthy caregiver is very important for both you and the person you are caring for. You may find that you are neglecting your own health, having little time for yourself or feel over-stressed and anxious. Your role as care-giver may change over time as the person’s independence is reduced or a disease such as dementia changes their behaviour. Avoiding a build-up of stress as a caregiver is important and the best thing you can do for yourself and the person you are caring for is to stay as physically and emotionally strong as possible.
Symptoms of stress
The symptoms of caregiver stress can include:
- Denial about the medical condition or the general deterioration of the health of a loved one
- Anger at the person you love dearly for having the illness or disease
- Withdrawal from regular social activities that the caregiver once enjoyed
- Anxiety about how they will cope with caring for the person in the future when more help might be needed
- Issues with sleeping due to continued worry
- Moodiness, irritability and frustration causing negative effects on the loved one, family members or friends
- Concern about the impact of the loved ones condition on any children in the family particularly related to any possible behavioural changes with people with dementiaWays to
Manage caregiver stress
There are services available which can help alleviate caregiver stress by taking over some of the everyday tasks that might be getting too much. This can include personal care (help with showering, dressing, meal preparation), respite care (to give you a break) and home care.
While these services, notably respite care at home, are aimed at assisting the person who is so dependent on their caregiver, they relieve the stress on the caregiver by having one less task to manage. In order for a carer to continue doing the best they can in their caring role, it is important they look after themselves and have some time to do the things they enjoy amidst their busy schedule. Respite care is a valuable way for carers to avoid burn-out by allowing themselves some time out. Not only will respite care give the carer a chance to recharge their batteries, it will rejuvenate their spirit and allow them to continue in their vital caring role.
It is also beneficial to find out what is available in your local area such as nursing services, adult day programs, meal delivery and support groups which can all contribute to managing daily tasks. Managing so many different aspects of a person’s care can be exhausting but it does not need to be when there are other services which can be employed and can relieve considerable caregiver stress.
Staying connected to family members, your friends and regular activities is also very important. It is often hard to regularly find time for yourself which juggling the many responsibilities you face. It is important for your well-being to ensure you have some time-out even if it is just for a short time.
For some people, the use of relaxation techniques such as meditation, visualisation of a calm environment and breathing exercises can be beneficial for relieving stress. It may be a good idea to try more than one to determine what best works for you. Exercise in general can also be beneficial to reduce stress as well as improving general well-being.
Respite care is a valuable way caregivers can de-stress to ensure they are able to continue giving the best possible support to their loved one.
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