How To Manage The Stress Of Caregiving
Not surprising, but caregivers report much higher levels of stress than non-caregivers. It can be physically and emotionally draining caring for another adult. It can also be scary watching a loved one’s health or well-being decline.
Stress can bring on a wealth of medical conditions such as depression and anxiety, a weakened immune system that leads to more illness, obesity, higher risk of chronic illness and problem with short term memory.
Taking steps to lower your stress levels can be difficult. You already have a lot on your plate. How can you add more to your to do list?
You have no choice. If you don’t lower your stress levels, you run the risk of dealing with your own health issues on top of your caree’s needs. If that isn’t scary enough, consider this – if you are not yet 65 on Medicare, the cost of medical care for a person with a chronic illness is astronomical.
I will use myself as an example. I was healthy for the first 33 years of my life. I only went to a doctor for the occasional allergy issue. After I had my son, my body did a complete 360 and I now have been dealing with chronic illness for the past 7 years.
Just last week I had three follow up appointments with my specialists. My co-pays totaled $75 and I spent $38 on parking. In ONE week. I also had a small infection a few months ago that cost me $400 over a three week period. These out-of-pocket expenses are on top of what my husband contributes to healthcare through his employer. We maxed out our Flex Spending months ago. We usually meet our deductible by February. Can your budget handle the extra expense of a chronic illness?
I don’t want to scare you or get into a political discussion about healthcare. I just want to encourage you to put your health higher up on your priority list. Some health issues can’t be helped, but if you can avoid illness, please, take the steps to do so.
Tips to Reduce Caregiver Stress
There are several ways to reduce your stress levels. Different tactics work for different people. Choose what works best for you and find a way to make it work in your life.
- Learn Better Caregiving Techniques: Sometimes feeling like you don’t know what you’re doing or second guessing your ability can cause additional stress. Consider a caregiving class or training to help you feel more confident in your ability.
- Find Caregiver Resources in Your Community: Bring in the cavalry. The more resources you tap into, the less you will be doing yourself in the long term. It takes time to research and apply for services but the long-term payoff can be huge.
- Tap Your Network: If you haven’t built a support network, start now. Set aside time to list the people in your life who can help and the types of things you can request and just do it. You can repay the favors later.
- Meet Other Caregivers Like Yourself: Join a support group – either on or offline – to meet others who are in the same boat. If you can’t go to an actual caregiver support meeting, connect with caregivers through social media. There are Facebook and Twitter groups full of caregivers who know exactly what you are going through.
- Take Time For Yourself: Whether you go away for a night or steal 20 minutes a day, find some way to de-stress through self-care.
- Maintain Your Health: Put your health at the top of your to do list and eat as well as you can, get a minimum amount of exercise and check in with your doctor regularly.
- Get Organized: The more organized you are, the less time you’ll spend booking appointments, filling prescriptions, finding the most recent communication with a service provider or doctor. It will take time up front, but taking the time to organize yourself now will save you time later. If you are also working while caregiving, set aside time over the weekends to prepare yourself for your week so that it runs more smoothly.
Caregivers Need to Reach Out for Support
Asking for help is not a sign of weakness. It doesn’t mean you don’t love your caree enough. It doesn’t mean you can’t handle your caregiving responsibilities. It means you know your limits. You prioritize your wellbeing as much as you prioritize the needs of others.
If you don’t know where to turn, visit my Resources page. At minimum, if you are overwhelmed by caregiving and don’t know where to turn, reach out to your local senior center. They can let you know what is available in caree’s community. They may also be able to help you with the application process.
Here are the types of services you can secure:
- Meal Delivery
- Transportation Services
- Respite Care
- Paid Caregiver Services
- Tax and Legal Help
- Home Modification
The more caregiving services you outsource, the more time you can spend enjoying your loved one. It will also give you more time for stress-management.
Don’t allow pride to prevent you from reaching out for help. Even if your caree is resistant to someone other than you caring for them, remind yourself that they are not in the right mindset. If they were, they wouldn’t want to cause such a drain on your health that you experience long-term stress related health problems.